Meghan Doherty, IFPA Policy & Advocacy Officer, Ireland
Abortion is criminalised in almost all circumstances in Ireland. Since 1983, a succession of referenda, high-profile legal cases and the annual exile of approximately 5,000 women and girls to England, has characterised Ireland’s official policy towards women and girls’ need for safe and legal abortion services. Legislators have consistently abdicated their responsibility in this area, even pro-choice legislators, largely because they fear malicious attacks from anti-choice groups. These fears are not unfounded, however, the influence of anti-choice groups is on the wane and the majority of the Irish population now support access to abortion services in Ireland.
Ireland in 2010 is a much different place than it was in 1983 but the abortion discourse is often stuck in that era. In response, the IFPA has been working with a new generation of advocates to reclaim the public debate on abortion and articulate a pro-choice position based on international human rights standards, equal access to health services and connections to a broader social justice movement. This is a proactive strategy that represents a shift away from reactive and ad-hoc campaigns whereby the agenda has customarily been set by anti-choice groups. As media spokespeople, community organisers, bloggers, youth leaders and engaged citizens, young women and men in Ireland are succeeding in changing the language and tone of public discussion on abortion and are focussed on holding policy-makers accountable for the realisation of reproductive rights in Ireland.