On behalf of Alliance for Choice It is indeed a pleasure for me to address this
message of solidarity to you on International Women’s Day; A day when
women around the world will celebrate our political, economic, social and
cultural achievements, and continue to highlight our struggle against sexism,
misogyny and patriarchy.
Indeed this message should have been delivered by our chairperson Emma
Campbell who gave birth to a baby boy Luca on Sunday so the privilege is mine,
and indeed congratulations to her and her family.
Alliance for Choice is an organisation that campaigns for the fundamental
reform of abortion law in Northern Ireland to ensure that is it compliant with
human rights standards and that women have access to free, safe and legal
abortion. We are made up of women and men who reflect the diverse
population of Northern Ireland and who want to see the decriminalisation of
abortion, equality and self-determination in the area of sexual and
reproductive rights. Our campaign slogan of Trust Women has indeed captured
the imagination of the public, some politicians and we are eternally grateful for
the support of the Trade Union movement.
Abortion has always existed to deal with unwanted pregnancies and indeed
techniques to carry them out are recorded in some of the oldest Egyptian
medical texts. The limited access to abortion across our island denies women
their full rights as citizens, but also highlights the vested interests of the
establishment who try to re-enforce the perceived traditional ‘feminine’ roles
as fertile, caring and inevitable mothers, and in effect forcing us into
I am delighted that we are joined this evening by our sisters from the Abortion
Rights Campaign in the South who organised the Strike for Repeal today and
had over 7,000 people on the streets today. We stand in solidarity with you as
we know that any progress on abortion reform on the island will benefit all the
women on this island.
Angela you noted in Race Class and Gender that “ individual choice ,safe
contraceptive methods, as well as abortion when necessary – is a fundamental
prerequisite for the emancipation of women”; and we here in Ireland are very
well aware of this.
As women we recognise that the control, regulation, and stigmatisation of
female fertility, bodies and sexuality is politically and culturally policed on the
whole island. Reproductive health and justice are an integral part of the global
movements for women’s rights and against poverty and are contained within
the global human rights framework.
Access to sexual and reproductive health services is crucial to women’s health
and well-being and the availability of safe, legal abortion and affordable,
reliable contraception is really good for women. Being able to decide if and
when to have a child (or more children) improves our educational outcomes,
our career prospects, our health, the health of our relationships, the well-being
of our children, our wages, and our sex lives. Women benefit tremendously
from reproductive freedom, and so does society. Those who suffer the most
are working class women who are faced with Sophie’s choice; either forced to
continue a crisis pregnancy, find and pay astronomical amounts of money to
travel to England or further afield, or face prosecution for buying abortion pills
(which are fraction of the cost on the internet).
As activist, scholar Loretta Ross said: “Our ability to control what happens to
our bodies is constantly challenged by poverty, racism, environmental
degradation, sexism, homophobia, and injustice.
But we stand on the shoulder of giants; women in this room who have been
campaigning for abortion rights, civil rights, workers rights and women’s rights;
some of them for nearly 50 years. We are inspired by you women , we have
learned so much from you, and continue to do so, as you bring with you a
wealth of knowledge and insight as teachers, as activists, as workers and as
feminists. We will continue to Challenge the silence and stigma that surrounds
abortion through our activism, education and discussion and protest, and we
will not rest until we see free safe and legal abortion available on this island.
Our struggle continues.
By Kellie O'Dowd, delivered at the CPI Solidarity event on 8th March 2017