Dublin came to a standstill twice last Wednesday, International Women’s Day, as part of the fight for abortion rights in Ireland.
Some 3,000 people blocked the O’Connell Bridge for a Strike4Repeal protest at midday and over 12,000 in the evening, as protests took place across Ireland.
The protesters were demanding a referendum on repealing the eighth amendment—a law that makes abortion illegal except when the mother’s life is at serious risk. But this has led to deaths of pregnant women such as Savita Halappanavar in 2012.
The Irish government has promised a referendum on the issue but have still refused to name a date.
Thousands marched to the parliament buildings of the Dail in the evening chanting “Our body our choice”.
Young and lively, the march saw many families marching for a woman’s right to choose for future generations—men, women, children and whole families took part.
Women stayed off work earlier that day or joined the midday protest during their lunch break—a tactic inspired by protests in Poland last year.
Hundreds of students across Ireland also walked out of their lectures.
People Before Profit TD Brid Smith also tabled a bill in the Dail last week to decriminalise abortion. It reduces the punishment for having an abortion from 14 years in prison to a one euro fine.
Brid also joined the protests outside the Dail. She told Socialist Worker, “marching down to the bridge you couldn’t move for the hundreds of students coming out of Trinity to join the protest.”
“It was an inspiration and it’s a very strong movement.”
And Aoife, one of the organisers of the Strike4Repeal protests told Socialist Worker that “It’s been encouraging that there are students, teenagers who are organising in schools to support the call for a referendum”.
Protests took place across Ireland in cities such as Limerick, Waterford and Kilkenny.
There were also solidarity protests in Britain, including in Oxford, Cambridge and Aberdeen. A solidarity protest in London saw over 700 people demonstrating outside the Irish Embassy.
There has been anger over the abortion laws brewing for years in Ireland.
An estimated 12 women a day travel to Britain from Ireland for a safe and legal abortion—a trip that can cost almost £900. Three women a day purchase the abortion pill online illegally—risking a possible 14 year prison sentence.
It is essential that women are able to access safe abortions.
Brid said, “We will definitely get a referendum, but the people who have come out in force to protest today are not going to sit back and accept any restrictions the government try to impose.”
Women are on the streets demanding abortion rights and have the support and strength to force the government into action.