SIPTU members at Shanganagh Waste Water Treatment Plant, Co.
Successful choice meeting in Dublin
More than 50 people attended the SWP pro-choice public meeting, ‘No More Shame’ in Cassidys Hotel on Monday 23 July.
The meeting was organised in response to the 600 offensive and obscene Youth Defence billboards deliberately targeting women who have had or who are considering abortions that have appeared at bus stations, along the LUAS line, train stations and even outside hospitals in recent weeks.
As the Advertising Standards Authority have refused to do anything despite numerous complaints from the public, people around the country have decided to act themselves, tearing down or defacing hundreds of these outrageous billboards.
However, the meeting was also called to build a campaign of resistance against the next wave of Pro-life billboards, funded by right wing and fundamentalist religious organisations in the US to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
There was also a call for a plan of action to keep the pressure on the Fine Gael/Labour government ahead of the report from an ‘expert group’ on the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in December 2010. The Court ruled that Ireland’s abortion laws had violated the rights of a cancer patient whose life was in danger yet was forced to travel abroad for a termination. A decision would likely shame the Irish government into finally legislating for the X-Case, exactly 20 years after what was a watershed in the politics of abortion in Ireland.
The idea for the slogan for the meeting, ‘No More Shame’, originated from a remarkable pro-choice protest less than 12 days ago.
According to Sinead Kennedy, feminist socialist and pro-choice activist in Ireland, “following 20 years of inaction on the x-case, it’s heartening this year to see lots of young woman becoming active again in pro-choice politics. They refuse to take the situation any more where 6000 women are forced to travel abroad to Britain each year.”
Mary Smith, socialist and active in pro-choice politics in Ireland for many years, was excited by the magnificent radical protest against the insulting billboards that clearly touched a nerve for many young women and are once again creating a new generation of feminist activists. And it prompted one of the most vibrant and militant pro-choice demonstrations that have not been seen since the struggle surrounding the x-case scandal itself back in 1992.
According to Mary, “for a long time, there have been continuous attempts to undermine the gains made by the women’s movement of radicalism that occurred in the 1960s and 70s which has faced a backlash from the likes of PLAC (Pro-Life Amendment Campaign), SPUC and its latest fanatical incarnation, Youth Defense. The 1980s were dark times for the women’s movement but what changed the situation was the x-case. It blew the whole scenario out of the water.
For the first time, the issue was concrete, the prevention of a 14 year old rape victim from travelling abroad for an abortion, instead of abstract arguments such as ‘the sanctity of life’ or ‘when did life begin’.”
“There was outrage culminating in a mass Dublin protest 13,000 strong. We were out, we were fighting and we won. All subsequent debates and referenda attempts by SPUC, etc to roll back the effect of the x-case, put pro-lifers on the back foot.
Sadly, out of all this came the likes of Youth Defence; they specialise in hypocrisy, lies and appalling bullying.”
Also speaking at the meeting, Madeleine Johansson, socialist activist and heavily involved in pro-choice and wider women’s feminist politics, exposed the nonsense surrounding the framing by the corporate media on what the discussion about abortion is really all about- abortions in Ireland or not?
“Abortions in Ireland already exist. Nearly 4000 women travelled to the UK last year but the real figure is probably much higher. Since 1980, 150,000 Irish woman had abortions, 50 million worldwide. Shockingly, 68,000 women die each year in countries where abortion is illegal and where women are forced to go through these horrible and dangerous procedures; yet where legal, there are hardly any risks to women’s health, mental or physical.”
“And the issue is not one of morality or life. It’s really about controlling women’s lives and physically controlling women’s bodies.”
Madeleine outlined how the need to control and oppress women is about class and class society, with the link between women’s oppression and class society shown so vividly in
Friedrich Engels famous work ‘The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.’
And as Madeleine explains, “the issue is also economic - the class issue of abortion means that for the rich, it’s quite easy to travel to the UK, but women from disadvantaged working class backgrounds face very different problems where its getting economically harder to look after children. Many women and children face ruthless austerity cuts in Ireland with 200,000 children living in poverty today and vicious attacks on lone parent families in the last budget, the poorest group in society.”
To all this, the so-called ‘pro-lifers’ couldn’t care less.
Firing off a warning but issuing a call to action, Mary Smith stated that the aims of the likes of corporate elites and the bully boys of the youth Defence is to make women feel shamed and diminished and less willing to stand up for their rights. And Youth Defence are substituting themselves for the role of the bishops.
“The bishops used to bully us and left us with lakes of pain and shame from the Magdalene Laundries to the children abused in industrial schools and orphanages run by religious orders. These are people who want to maintain that sort of rule over us but we won’t let them. There’ll be no more shame. We’re going to stand up against these people and take the fight not only against Youth Defence and put them back in their box but right to the door of the corporate elite itself.”
In answering the question of what is to be done, Madeleine Johansson said:
“We cannot sit back and wait for the government to do anything for us. We waited 20 years! We need to get organised and mobilise on the streets. The x-case proved that when you come out onto the streets you can change things. We must demand safe, free and legal abortions and go further than the x-case legislation.”
“Secondly, women’s oppression really comes from class society and therefore we need to get rid of capitalism. As socialists we want equality for all men and women and fight for a society where no woman should feel the need to have an abortion; where every child should be looked after by society. We want to fight to end women’s oppression and sexism and to do that we must fight the capitalist system as a whole and on individual issues such as a woman’s right to choose.”
Really good ideas were agreed upon at the end of the meeting, as was the plan to meet again with larger sections of the women’s movement to discuss key decisions and tactics and organise for action. The ProChoice Open Planning Day will take place on Saturday, 28 July in Seomra Spraoi, Belvedere Court, Dublin 1 from 12pm to 6pm.
Amidst rising popular anger against the likes of Youth Defence and their attempts to prevent women from accessing abortion, the tide has clearly turned. Opinion poll after opinion poll are showing wide support for a woman’s right to access abortion services in this country. Nevertheless, it’s absolutely vital to build a mass campaign at such a critical time.
It’s time to get organised and fight back!
(Thanks to Nigel Hanlon for the pic and Michael Wallace Clondalkin SWP for report!)
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