Perched comfortably on their grand chairs in the Graduate Memorial Building, Colm O’Gorman and Ailbhe Smyth were right at home. Sitting before members of the Students’ Union and DU Amnesty International, the director of Amnesty Ireland and feminist activist spoke with undeniable zeal and palpable passion, mesmerizing us all. And what seemed like such a natural talking point for such prolific activists was one that is still very much in the shadows of everyday Irish life: abortion.
We knew it would never be easy to talk about abortion. To older generations it is inconceivable, let alone addressed in public. Even so, today was different, the veils of stigma dissipated and stripped away to reveal the facts of the matter.
Rewind the clock five years ago, O’Gorman pointed out, and we wouldn’t even be having this nationwide discussion. So, what’s changed? Maybe we can trace it all back to 2013, after the X Case, when the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill permitted for foetal termination where the mother’s life was endangered. Yet still here we are today, trying to delve deeper into the complexities of abortion. As part of Empowerment Week, TCDSU are joining forces with USI to promote the ProChoice campaign. Their aim is to remove in its entirety the legislation of the Eighth Amendment.
The speakers were spellbinding, dispelling some myths and addressing age-old fears about something that has been perennially been shoved under the Emerald Isle carpet. Take, for example, a poll O’Gorman cited that found that only 7% of the population, regardless of age or location, were against abortion in all case, and a year later this had slipped to 5%. Perhaps even more surprisingly half of these people were still ProChoice. We have a traditional stance of black versus white, good versus evil. Maybe things aren’t as stark as we initially believed? Perhaps it’s more nuanced? As Colm and Ailbhe reminded us, it’s a spectrum, full of various personal limits for each individual.
That is completely ok, the most important thing to bear in mind is that we are now talking. People like Colm and Ailbhe meet others daily with various opinions, but even more so, they encourage the thousands of voices to speak up and voice their concerns. Remember, in a sense, we are only babies ourselves- Ireland has never spoken about abortions so openly before, we still look to other countries and bodies for guidance, regardless of our allegiance. Smyth informed us that we are now standing on the cusp of a probable eighth amendment referendum, likely this summer, which is a very short time for a campaign still in infancy. So let’s get talking.
Inevitably, students will play a crucial role in determining the result of said referendum. After all, this is our future we are paving out, and the Taoiseach will indeed be taking this essential fact on board. So, regardless if you are ProChoice, ProLife or, like many, straddled in the middle, get involved. Ailbhe and Colm gave excellent advice to get the ball rolling back home; remember, it’s a discussion, not an argument. Respect others’ opinions at all times. And don’t forget that this debate runs deeper than just abortion: it’s about stopping tradition being used as a blockade and about giving women the choice to have control of their own bodies. Equally, it’s a study in humanity. This referendum will only serve to underscore the sheer complexity of humanity, and the enduring power of unwavering hope.