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International Working Women’s Day is steeped in the radical history of women demanding improvement in our daily lives and in our working conditions. IWWD dates back to 1857 in New York City. Women garment workers went on strike to demand a 10-hour working day, better working conditions and equal rights. In honour of this strike, another was held in 1908 by women needle trade workers. They demanded voting rights and, an end to sweatshops and child labour. Two years later, the socialist, Clara Zetkin, proposed that the 8th of March be commemorated as International Working Women’s Day. It was first celebrated nationally in the Soviet Union after the https://www.wsm.ie/russian-revolution, a revolution which began with a strike of women textile workers.
On https://www.wsm.ie/iwd, women stand in solidarity with each other against oppression. We demand control over our lives. We demand https://www.wsm.ie/c/anarchism-oppression-exploitation-policy. We demand freedom.
This past year saw a whole movement erupt in relation to sexual violence, with complicated dynamics within this movement that illustrate the intersectional nature of our society. We’ve saw two marches on this island demanding abortion. We saw women on this island come together in an united front to call out the misogyny of the Irish left through telling our comrades to cop on.The Cop on Comrades image from our share of the letter.
We watch from afar as women in Afrin risk their lives to defend themselves against the brutality of the Turkish state to protect the revolutionary changes they have made. We have seen the intensification of climate change, of which women will bear a disproportionate amount as our access to resources to cope with climate change has many obstacles in its path, especially for women in the Global South. We also lost a giant in the movement for sex workers’ rights just last month when Laura Lee passed, and send our condolences to her friends, family and comrades.
This past year we have made vocal our desires. There have been attempts to silence us, yet struggle continues. Many victories await us. We educate, we agitate, we organise.Strike 4 Repeal shut down Dublin City Centre this day last year to demand a referendum on the 8th Amendment.
In the spirit of reflection and in bearing this in mind as we fight for a better future, we remember that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the year that some women won the right to vote. One hundred years ago, women had to fight to be granted the status of adults with the right to make their own political decisions; they broke laws, smashed windows, and took what was and is rightfully ours.
This is also the year in which Ireland will have a vote to repeal the hated 8th Amendment which bans abortion, as well as limits the choices of pregnant women and people in the maternity system. Winning the referendum is just one step on the path to winning abortion rights. After the referendum we will need to fight for proper access to abortion, preferably with no law regulating the procedure, just as no specific laws exist on other medical procedures. But abortion rights are not enough for true reproductive justice. We must abolish the patriarchal ideology that allowed for the church and state to have a legal right to our bodies. We must abolish the system that strips women of our choices through poverty and violence. We must support women in their choice both to have and not to have children.
We fight for a world in which we can all live in control of our lives. We fight for a world in which every child can grow up to meet their full potential as creative and imaginative human beings. We fight for a world based on care, community, friendship and love. So on this International Women’s Day we salute the Irish women from all walks of life who will be campaigning for repeal. We salute the women fighting in Afrin, who are putting their very lives on the line. We salute our Trans sisters and thank them for enriching our movement. We salute all our friends and neighbours, our sisters, aunts, daughters and mothers who in their daily lives struggle against an unfair and equal world. Here’s to the rebels, the warriors, the women who fight back everyday just through existing.
The announcement that there will be a referendum to decriminalise abortion in Ireland is the product of decades of active campaigning. Pro-choice campaigners built for repeal ever since the hated 8th amendment was entered into the Constitution in 1983, putting a ban on abortion, which was already illegal in the country, into the constitution. If at first this seemed like a distant demand now repeal looks by far the most likely outcome in May. The story of how this happened illustrates how change comes in general. That is not through elections but through people getting organised to demand that change, regardless of which politicians happen to be running the show in any particular year.
Who is in power is, of course, not completely irrelevant but significant changes are far, far more dependent on people organising themselves to demand change and forcing politicians to implement that change. Almost every significant change in political policy in Ireland, from the abolition of water charges to Repeal of the 8th has been an outcome of people organising together and mobilising to force change. Within this direct action played a key role in ensuring politicians cannot simply stick their heads in the sand.
With the water charges campaign which defeated a new flat rate austerity tax, it was mass non-payment and the disruption of meter installations that forced the politicians who insisted the charge was inevitable to abolish it. With the pro-choice movement it has been thousands of people per year, carrying unwanted pregnancies obtaining abortion pills for themselves and taking them in Ireland, despite being at risk of a 14 year prison sentence. Before and during the 1991 ‘x-case’ when the state injected a 14 year old she so could not travel to England for an abortion ‘illegal’ distribution of abortion information and huge marches demanding X be allowed travel played the same role and forced the politicians to call the 1992 referenda that saw the bans on abortion information and travel for abortion overturned.
Politicians have always been excellent at stepping in front of the cameras, right at the moment that movements, built by others are on the edge of success. Political careers are made or broken on the basis of the timing of this decision. There is of course some courage involved in that decision due to the risk being taken but the subsequent focus on the politician can give the impression that they are the reason for change, and not the movement they have stepped in front of.
The current wave of organising that won the holding of this referendum inherited the work of others but otherwise began in the protests against the Youth Defence billboards targetting women who had abortions set up by the anti-choice group Youth Defence in the summer of June 2012. Not for the first time arrogant attacks from anti-choice bigots galvanised an angry backlash and a new generation of resistance. In a similar but smaller way in the late 1980s the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children brought together the organisers who put together the x-case march when SPUC went after students providing abortion information in guidebooks.
In the early Autumn of 2012 Savita Halappanavar, an Indian woman living in Galway, died from septicemia after being denied an emergency abortion. When the horrific news of her death circulated the pro-choice organisers of the Dublin demonstration knew each other from the protests against the billboards and were able to quickly organise. And after the initial protests they did not go home and wait for the next tragedy but started to do the ground work in preparing the movement that emerged - in particular through the creation of the Abortion Rights Campaign and the annual March for Choice that rapidly grew to mobilising 10s of thousands. Last year’s #Strike4Repeal, a huge grassroots protest which blocked O’Connell bridge and brought Dublin to a halt for the afternoon, turned up the heat in demonstrating there could be consequences to politicians thinking they could simply ignore this growing movement.
There will be time after the referendum victory to write a detailed history of this movement but here we wanted to open this campaign by pointing out that it is not Prime Minister Leo Varadkar or even the Citizens Assembly (a panel set up to deliberate on the issue and make policy recommendation) that is forcing change but the work of a mostly unknown set of organisers over the last few years. This understanding will matter in the aftermath of the referendum when we move on to fighting the problems in the legislation that will be introduced (and there will be problems). But it also matters to how we understand that we can collectively change all aspects of the world we live in. Solutions lie not through the selection of politicians but through the building of sustainable movement that are willing to take action to achieve their goals.
This is an internationalised version of the article published on the WSM website at https://www.wsm.ie/c/finally-referendum-repeal8th-organ...appen. For this Anarkismo publication we've explained contents that we could assume readers in Ireland would be aware of but which other Anarkismo readers might not.
On 14th October 2017, Rally for Choice will march through the streets of Belfast. - Last year saw us counter protest the Rally for Life in the North of Ireland, for the first time we marched against their lies instead of our usual static demo. Our counter protest was a huge success, despite being organised at short notice and with only a handful of activists. The protest burst across our streets and convened at Buoy Park afterwards for speakers. We outnumbered the Rally for Life 2016 significantly.
This year, with heightened urgency, even more organisers have come together to have a stand-alone march. We do not need Rally for Life to galvanise us. We are here, in huge numbers, and we are angry.
Rally for Choice is a revolutionary, grassroots, feminist organisation of ordinary people who have come together to make our voices heard. We have an anarchist structure and strive for a horizontal organising arrangement where everyone is equal. Roles are rotated so that no one becomes burned out or takes on too much. We try to avoid terms like manager or leader, and use co-ordinator instead. Our structure is very inspired by the Workers Solidarity Movement.
Organising a Rally for Choice in the North has been a complex but liberating process. We have gathered into sub-groups for Social Media, Outreach and Fundraising, as well as the official paperwork that comes with holding a protest in Belfast, plus we have strong branding which is very important (as we learn from any episode of The Apprentice). We have been meeting weekly to fortnightly since May 2017.
There are only two places in the city where we are officially allowed to gather without Public Liability Insurance (PLI): outside Queen's University and City Hall. Neither of these are large enough for the Rally for Choice. Buoy Park (officially known as Cathedral Gardens) is free to use, but we need permission from Belfast City Council and we must purchase PLI. Other places in the city require gatherings to pay. Paying to protest isn't something we should have to do.
We have encountered so much resistance from Belfast City Council, that it has been hard to avoid the impression that they are trying to silence us. One of our events, Picnic for Choice in Botanic Gardens, was declined permission at 4pm the day before it was held.
Any march in the North requires a notification to be sent to the Parades Commission. They don't grant permission per se, but they must be notified. They can put restrictions on the march and we will have to have an official meeting with them 10 days before the Rally. The Rally can be classified as 'contentious' up to 14 days before. This will require more meetings and paperwork.
The City Centre PSNI will also be informed ahead of the day.
Please follow us to keep up to date.
We have an excellent video about why we are doing this, and there is another one coming soon...
As it's incredibly close to all our hearts, we want to include and involve as many people as possible. We've sent information packs to Women's Centres and Groups across the province. We've held pro-choice information stalls to distribute leaflets in Belfast and in Tyrone. One of the reasons why we chose October is that we want people from the March for Choice in Dublin on 30th September 2017 to be inspired, and come and support us in the North! We want everyone to come to Rally for Choice. We don't want this to be just Belfast. We want this to represent people Ireland-wide.
We will use this kindness wisely. Holding a successful Rally is expensive. As well as the leaflets, posters, stickers, public liability insurance and outlay for merchandise, we also want to make a huge purple banner and have some purple surprises for a bit of atmosphere on the 14th October.
This is the Workers Solidarity Movement position paper on Abortion Rights as collectively agreed at July 2017 WSM National Conference. This position paper sits under the Patriarchy paper which in turn is under the Anarchism, Oppression & Exploitation paper, and hence does not repeat any of that material in these.
1. Why We are Pro-Choice
1.1 The WSM stands for people having control over their own bodies: bodily autonomy. Part of that is control over our own reproductive health, including the ability to end a pregnancy if we choose to. The prohibition of abortion on the island of Ireland is a gross violation of that basic right to bodily autonomy.
1.2 Though cis women have been the primary targets of the abortion ban, abortion rights affect anyone else who can become pregnant namely trans men, non-binary and some intersex people. It’s important to recognise this in order to have a movement which includes all people who can become pregnant and which challenges patriarchy as a whole rather than only the oppression of cis women. Hence our inclusion of gender-neutral language in this position paper and in our campaigning for abortion rights.
1.3 However we believe that the imposition of an abortion ban is strongly linked to women’s inferior position in patriarchal society and expected role as baby-makers and home-makers. The capacity for most women to be pregnant has copper-fastened that inferior position in capitalist society. This has been extended to being stuck with child rearing within the family. Therefore women's access to work, education, leisure and any chance of self-advancement has been strictly limited. This is especially true for working class women. The WSM opposes women's oppression.
1.4 People who can get pregnant have always tried to control their own fertility. Anti-abortion laws have resulted in back-street abortions and induced miscarriages. World-wide, one person dies from a back-street abortion every three minutes. Winning full control over our own fertility is an essential step towards ending women’s oppression. The technology has been developed under capitalism to make this both safe and possible. Women and others must have the right to use this technology to decide if and when to have children.
1.5 We support a person’s access to full, free and safe contraception. If they find themselves pregnant but do not wish to have a child then they should have access to free, safe, abortion on request.
2. What We Mean by Pro-Choice
2.1 We believe in real options and real choices for people who can get pregnant. A person who wants to have a child shouldn't have to spend the rest of their life looking after them. This is why we favour the option of full child-care provision, parental leave and flexi-time for working, public creche facilities and restaurants. The present role of many women as full-time unpaid childminders within the family must be ended.
2.2 A person who finds themselves pregnant and does not wish to remain so should have a right to free, safe abortion on demand. This is not an abstract political slogan, we don't go around shouting "free abortion on demand" in the belief that it can only be gained in the context of a socialist revolution. We believe that it is merely one of the basic first steps in freeing women from the constraints placed on us by capitalism.
2.3 The quality of a pregnant person's life can never be made equal to that of an unborn foetus. The foetus is totally dependent on the parent it cannot be said to have an independent existence. To give it such rights (as per the Irish constitution) reduces pregnant people to the status of breeding machines or walking wombs. Just as an acorn can become an oak tree, a foetus can become a human baby. But a foetus is no more a baby than an acorn is an oak tree.
2.4 However, politically, there is little point in entering debates on "when does life begin?" or viability of the foetus. Our arguments must must focus on a person's right to control their own body.
3. The Current Legal Situation
3.1 South of Ireland
(a) In 1861 abortion was made a criminal offence in Ireland, north and south. This was still the case in 1983 when the anti-choice lobby got the southern government to hold a referendum which amended the Constitution to give equal rights to the "unborn". This is the 8th Amendment.
(b) In 1992 the High Court granted an injunction preventing a 14 year old, pregnant as a result of rape, from traveling to Britain for an abortion (this was the X-case). The WSM was centrally involved in organising protests of up to 10,000, which led to the injunction being withdrawn and a major shift in public attitudes towards abortion.
(c) In the same year two referendums passed, which amended the Constitution to protect the right to travel for abortion and to have information about abortion services abroad. A third option, to exclude suicide as a life-threatening risk which would legally justify abortion, was rejected.
(d) In 2002 voters rejected another constitutional amendment to allow abortion where a woman’s life is at risk from pregnancy, but not suicide, by 50.42% to 49.58%.
(e) Fairly hollow legislation has been enacted to allow for the very limited grounds established by the X-case. To legalise abortion in any other circumstances first requires a referendum to overturn the 8th Amendment.
(f) In response to widespread protest against the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2013 the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was passed which hypothetically allows for abortion when the pregnant person is suicidal, but requires that person to be assessed by one obstetrician and two psychiatrists.
3.2 North of Ireland
(a) The North as well as the Isle of Man are the only parts of the UK not governed by the 1967 Abortion Act.
(b) While the 1967 Abortion Act put an end to working class people dying from back street abortions, as wealthy people had other means of securing abortions, it did not put an end to the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. The 1967 Act is a paternalistic law that requires two doctors’ signatures for an abortion to be carried out. Rather than calling for its extension we call for full decriminalisation.
(c) In December 2015 the High Court in Belfast ruled that the anti-abortion laws in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities was a breach of the human rights of those who are affected by the laws.
(d) Despite paying the same amount of taxes towards the NHS pregnant people from the North cannot avail of free abortions under the NHS in England. Despite this being challenged in the courts an appeal as recent as June 2017 stood by this law.
Mon 23 Apr, 16:56
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