As we quickly approach the upcoming referendum in the 26 Counties that would repeal the constitutional ban on abortion, the Irish Republican Socialist Party reiterates its long-standing support for a woman’s right to control her own body and choose abortion, and once again we call for the legalisation of abortion on demand.
At our first Ard Fheis in 1975, we became the first political party in Ireland to support a woman’s right to choose abortion, a position reaffirmed at subsequent Ard Fheiseanna over the decades. We call for immediate legislation to make abortion available, free of charge and on demand, through the health services on both sides of the border. We believe that any position short of that is insufficient and reactionary in 2018. As such, while we support the referendum in the 26 Counties, if it passes we think the government’s plan to introduce legislation permitting unrestricted abortion only during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy doesn’t go far enough.
Historically, women were viewed as the property of first their fathers and then their husbands, having no authority over their own bodies, and being taught that their highest duty was to reproduce, regardless of their own wishes. This view persists today, where conservative states, supported by misogynist religious bodies, pass laws to control what women can and cannot do. The right to choose abortion is the right of a woman to have sovereignty over her own body, and to make decisions and choices about her body. Neither church nor state has a role to play in regulating women’s bodies. We also recognize that some people with a uterus do not identify as women, and by extension our demands here apply equally to their reproductive rights.
We believe it is a sad indictment of Irish society in 2018 that a woman’s right to choose is still being denied. Women are forced to leave this island under a cloak of secrecy to receive a medical procedure that should easily be carried out, free from society’s imposed shame, in any hospital in Ireland on either side of the border. Irish society needs to continue progressing into the 21st century on social issues, a process began when the voters of the 26 Counties voted to legalise same-sex marriage in 2015.
We support a woman’s right to choose abortion. It’s not enough to theoretically allow it only when the woman’s life is at risk. If a woman’s right to control her body and make medical decisions is to mean anything, she must have the right to choose abortion under any circumstances. Women have died because they could not obtain a necessary abortion, such as Savita Halappanavar in 2012, leaving women’s lives held hostage. This must end.
We also believe that contraception must be available to all people, free and on demand, so that they have complete control over their reproductive choices. To those who oppose both abortion and contraception, we say that you are hypocrites whose agenda is plain to see. The right to make reproductive choices is part of a much larger struggle, particularly for women to take control of their own destinies and destroy the contradictions in Irish society that leave them held hostage by archaic social values. As such, it’s an important part of the struggle to separate church and state, and create a truly democratic, equal, and secular society in the future.
As revolutionary socialists, we recognize that this requires more than just reform, it requires a revolutionary change in society. Full liberation for people of all genders–men, women, and those who identify outside that binary– can only happen if existing social institutions are abolished and the archaic values they represent are swept aside with them. The state should not impose religious diktat on anyone. An oppressive agenda towards women has been very much at work in Ireland, with the Catholic Church, right-wing political parties, and other reactionary elements seeking to thwart the struggle for women’s liberation. All progressive forces in Ireland must oppose this reactionary agenda.
In conclusion, the IRSP supports a woman’s right to choose abortion on demand, and we support the struggle on both sides of the border to make it a reality.