Irish and British women must unite in the battle for reproductive rights, argue Ariel Silvera and Sinead Ahern, as they sketch out the history of abortion in Ireland and the UK
As oppression has gone global, so too has the struggle against it – including feminism’s battle for reproductive rights. Reproductive rights guarantee individuals free choice on the number and spacing of their children. Any call for reproductive rights is a call for accessible, accurate sex education, affordable access to a range of contraceptive methods, supports for parents and, most controversial of all, the right to an abortion. The fight for reproductive rights is an ongoing and worldwide struggle. Even in countries such as France and the Netherlands, where abortion services are fully integrated into the public health system, abortion is under attack. Great Britain is no exception.
As feminists, it is in our best interest to rally with our fellow activists in this campaign. In this article, we want to focus on what’s closest to our experience, which is the issue of reproductive rights in the Republic of Ireland, and its inextricable link to the UK. I hope to show the commonalities in these struggles, highlighting absurdities such as the Northern Irish situation along the way.
The United Kingdom and Ireland have a long history of connections, stemming mostly from the long-lived status of Ireland as a British colony. Even after Ireland began existing as a separate sociopolitical entity, the Republic has always kept a link with the larger power, often adopting similar legislation. The propagation of British economic interests in the Republic is another example.
However, independence brought with it the installation of a regime which, while sovereign, was just as intent on oppressing the majority. Through a strong anti-urban, Catholic ideology, Irish society found itself under the yoke once more, only this time it was under the idea that this was the “true” Ireland.