Ireland: One year since vote to end abortion ban

One year on since Ireland’s vote to end its abortion ban, Amnesty International is paying tribute to the brave campaigners who spoke out for reproductive rights and sending messages of hope to people in Northern Ireland who are still subject to one of the strictest abortion bans in the world.

Today Amnesty International has released a powerful short film, ‘Story of Repeal’; featuring leading activists, campaigners, politicians, and women who had bravely spoken out.

The film coincides with giant ‘Now For Northern Ireland’ projections which lit up buildings across London, Belfast, Dublin, and Glasgow last night. 

Northern Ireland abortion ban

The ‘Now For Northern Ireland’ projections across London, Belfast, Dublin, and Glasgow shone a spotlight on the injustice of Northern Ireland’s strict near-total abortion ban, one year since Ireland’ voted to repeal the 8th Amendment (25-26 May).

It’s been a year since the incredible win for reproductive rights in Ireland. After the vote there was so much hope that the UK Government would then act to change things in the North, but a year later we’re still waiting
Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International

The Amnesty International stunt drew attention to the UK Government’s inaction on reforming Northern Ireland’s abortion law, which remains one of the most restrictive in the world and carries the harshest criminal penalties in Europe. 

Today, the Isle of Man’s abortion reform is due to come into force, and this weekend marks one year since Ireland voted to end its near-total abortion ban. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland continues to be governed by a strict abortion law, which is more restrictive than most abortion laws currently being proposed and causing outrage across US states.

A giant heart - part of an Amnesty collaboration with Irish artist Maser, who re-worked his ‘Repeal the 8th’ artwork which became symbolic of the repeal campaign in Ireland to say ‘Now for Northern Ireland’ - was projected onto the Northern Ireland Office in Westminster, The Mac building in Belfast, the Mary Barbour statue in Glasgow, and the Project Art Centre in Dublin – where the original repeal mural was painted.  

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International UK’s Northern Ireland campaign manager, said: “It’s been a year since the incredible win for reproductive rights in Ireland. One year on, Northern Ireland remains isolated as the only part of the UK and Ireland without access to basic healthcare. 

The UK Government must now to end the harm and hurt caused by our inhumane and discriminatory near-total abortion ban
Grainne Taggart, Amnesty International UK

“After Ireland’s vote there was so much hope that the UK Government would then act to change things in the North, but a year later we’re still waiting.

“These projections shine a spotlight on the unjustifiable neglect of people in Northern Ireland.

“Whilst dangerous roll-backs on reproductive rights are happening across US states, we must remember that our own Government is forcing its own citizens to live with these cruel laws.

“It’s time for the Government to end the harm and hurt caused by our inhumane and discriminatory near-total abortion ban.”

Artist Maser said: “By consciously making the Repeal artwork copyright free, the public were empowered to take ownership of it, I was a messenger watching from the side lines. With the people’s fierce collective energy, the artwork built huge momentum and spread across the state.

“Our friends in the north are now on their journey to revoke their outdated abortion laws. I am here to show my alliance, I am your defender.”

Repeal the 8th in Ireland

The powerful short film, ‘Story of Repeal’; is a timeline of the Eighth Amendment from 1983 to 2018, and tells the story of political and cultural change and the struggle for human rights.

Sorcha Tunney, Amnesty International Ireland’s It’s Time campaign coordinator, said: “This historic referendum victory was the outcome of decades of campaigning by civil society. We are honoured to have played a part in recent years, and this film pays tribute to those that made it happen.

The Yes vote happened because of women refusing to be silent anymore
Sorcha Tunney, Amnesty International Ireland

“Above all, the Yes vote happened because of women refusing to be silent anymore. Because Amanda Mellet and Siobhán Whelan took Ireland to a UN human rights body, and won. They shouldn’t have had to speak out about the pain and anguish they experienced, but they bravely did.

“Though the Yes vote was a huge victory, there is still so much more to do here and around the world. Changing the Irish constitution required a referendum but human rights shouldn’t come down to a vote. Northern Ireland is an example of where a government should take action for women’s rights but hasn’t. We say very clearly today - the North is next.”

BACKGROUND

Whilst people in Ireland and in most of the UK now have access to free, safe and legal abortion, women in Northern Ireland are still subject to one of the strictest abortion bans in the world – punishable by life in prison. The UK Government has responsibility to ensure the human rights of all UK citizens, including those in Northern Ireland, are upheld yet has taken no action to reform Northern Ireland’s inhumane abortion law.

There is huge support for Westminster to reform Northern Ireland’s abortion law across UK and Northern Irish political parties, amongst the Northern Irish public and from human rights, medical and legal bodies. UN Committees and UK Supreme Court judges have said that Northern Ireland’s abortion law puts the UK in breach of its human rights commitments.

Last month, the Women and Equalities Committee launched the findings from their inquiry into Northern Ireland’s abortion law and urged the Government to take urgent action. 

Issues with the legislation in the Republic of Ireland outlined here: https://www.amnesty.ie/abortion-bill-passing-a-huge-step-forward-but-barriers-to-access-remain/

Trailer for film available here, pictures and b-roll available to download here.