Let’s celebrate Ireland’s people for demanding what’s right for women

St Patrick’s Day is when we celebrate all that is great about Ireland – we can now add the Irish public’s support for wider access to abortion.

Today, people all over the world are marking St Patrick’s Day and honouring what it means to be Irish. The Eiffel Tower is glowing green in France and in the USA, President Obama is hosting the Irish Prime Minister at the White House’s annual celebration.

As part of the celebrations, we should include progress on key human rights concerns, because these, too, count towards what it means to be Irish.

Last May, Ireland became the first country in the world to introduce full civil marriage equality for all its people, regardless of their sexual orientation – by popular vote. This victory was applauded all over the world as a beaconof hope to those who fight for justice, freedom and equality.

Now, the Irish people are calling for these same principles of equality and non-discrimination to apply to women and girls. In a country with one of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws, a massive 87% of people polled recently said they wanted increased access to abortion.

It’s time to dispel the myth that abortion is a “divisive” issue in Ireland.
Amnesty International

The poll, commissioned by Amnesty International in Ireland and conducted by Red C, demonstrates that people in Ireland want the change that Amnesty has been campaigning for since we launched our She is #notacriminal campaign in June 2015.

You only need to look at the numbers to see how much attitudes towards abortion have changed in Ireland:

87% of people polled said they want wider access to abortion, up by 6% since a previous poll in May 2015, just before Amnesty’s She is #notacriminal launched in Ireland.

72% want abortion to be decriminalized, a rise of 5% since May 2015.

80% are aware that women and girls have a human right to access abortion in certain circumstances, up by 10% since May 2015.

66% consider it “hypocritical” that the Constitution bans abortion in Ireland but allows women to travel abroad for one.

72% believe that forcing women to travel for abortions unfairly discriminates against women who can’t afford to or are unable to travel.55% describe Ireland’s abortion laws as “cruel and inhumane”.

68% say we should trust women when they say they need an abortion, regardless of the circumstances.

Only 5% oppose abortion in all circumstances. Yet 34% of them would vote to repeal the 8th Amendment to Ireland’s Constitution, which places the right to life of the unborn on an equal footing with that of the pregnant woman.

It’s time to dispel the myth that abortion is a “divisive” issue in Ireland. Or that, because the 8th Amendment was voted in by the majority of people in 1983, that the majority still support it today. They don’t. The Irish people want the human rights of women and girls to be respected by their newly elected parliament.

For more than 20 years, successive Irish governments have refused to reform Ireland’s abortion laws, despite repeated criticisms from international human rights bodies. Now, let’s hope that Ireland’s new government listens.

She is #notacriminal is part of Amnesty’s My Body My Rights global campaign for sexual and reproductive rights.

TAKE ACTION: Collect petition signatures calling on Ireland to change its abortion laws now.

Image: Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International in Ireland, at St. Patrick’s Day Parade, London 13 March 2016. © Barry Johnston