Pro-choice activists campaigning for Ireland’s highly-restrictive abortion laws to be repealed have described how their fight is inextricably linked to the campaign which sucessfully legalised gay marriage in 2015.
Speaking from the streets of Dublin just before the country heads to the polls for Ireland’s sixth referendum on abortion, campaigners told HuffPost UK how the issues of sex, sexuality and women’s bodies are intertwined in Ireland.
Oonagh Murphy, a repeal campaigner, said many activists who led the gay marriage campaign are the same people now at the centre of the ‘Yes’ camp.
“I think the solidarity shown by gay men is absolutely phenomenal in this campaign,” she said, explaining that a number of canvassing groups are led by the gay community.
“I think there’s the sense of like: ‘You were there for us, we are gonna be here for you, sisters’.”
Murphy continued: “I think what it connects to is a sense that as a queer person you understand that the narrative that’s been driven by the ‘No’ campaign, by the anti-repeal campaign, is a narrative that is extremely heteronormative.”
Ailbhe Smyth, the co-director of the Together For Yes campaign, agreed, adding that many LGBTQ+ people have been “involved in pro-choice politics for a really long time”.
“When you are challenging the country and the church about your sexuality, you are also at the same time saying you don’t have the right to pass down dictats about what people do with their personal, sexual and reproductive lives.
“So for me, there’s never been a kind of: ‘Do I do one or the other?’ The two have always been so closely connected,” Smyth added.
“I think that the solidarity that was displayed to us two years ago, three years ago now, in the marriage equality referendum is something that it’s extremely important to show back now,” said Thomas, a member of the equality group ROSA.
What is the Irish abortion referendum all about?
Ireland’s abortion referendum will decide whether the country’s strict abortion laws should be relaxed.
Voters will be given the chance to vote yes or no on whether the Eighth Amendment to the country’s constitution should be repealed, opening the doors for the government to pass legislation making abortion legal.
The Eighth Amendment currently says the unborn child and the mother have an equal right to life.
Under the country’s new laws if the amendment is repealed, women in Ireland could legally obtain an abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and up to 24 weeks in cases where the woman’s life or health was at risk.
Terminations would also be allowed if the unborn baby had a fatal abnormality.