12 women travel to England each day to have abortions; safe yet illegal abortion pills are used by thousands of Irish women through services like need abortion Ireland and women on web; the last Irish Magdalene laundry was closed in 1996 in Galway. I’m sure you know these facts already.
The reality of abortion is undeniable as it exists regardless of legal constraints. The majority of this country want to repeal the 8th amendment (Irish Times Poll/Ipsos MRBI, October 2016). The UN has passed several resolutions to the Irish State that the laws against abortion in this country must be mitigated. This struggle has been going on for decades and we have repeated ourselves too many times. So it is time to engage in an action that cannot be ignored by the state: we must strike for Repeal.
An adhoc group of activists, artists, trade unionists and academics has come together to call for an unconventional strike action on the 8th of March in order to pressure the state into putting forward a referendum on repealing the 8th. If the government do not call a referendum before the 8th of March, a strike will commence.
The tactical use of a general strike was prominent during the Industrial Revolution, where production structures changed radically, and workers were segregated into a formal class society. In the coming years, through political and intellectual struggle, industrial workers would realise their power to win gains when joined together in the form of an organized strike. Large scale strike actions directly challenge the state, while acknowledging its corporate reliances — empowering workers.
This action comes at an interesting time in Ireland: recently public transport workers have led successful strike actions demanding pay increases after suffering wage cuts during the recession. 90% of INMO nurses voted in favour of industrial action before Christmas over impossible working conditions. Non-academic staff working in TCD are considering strike action due to precarious job security.
These are not isolated incidents: when an industrial action like the Luas workers’ strike in 2016 is successful, it proves to other workers that they have power, and can cause a chain reaction of worker consciousness. It encourages them to make brave democratic decisions to oppose the corporate powers that suppress them. Striking to secure bodily autonomy seems suitable in following this dignified trend of collective action.
Women are being asked to refuse to do domestic work for the duration of the strike. The unpaid labour that women perform goes unacknowledged by capitalist society, but it relies on this labour. Domestic labour involves the production and training of more humans who can sell their labour to society.
Though in modern times, most women are forced to work alongside men whilst performing unpaid domestic duties to survive, as their partners earnings cannot support them anymore. This means that women make up for a vast amount of global labour power. Refusing to continue this not only sends a powerful message about social roles, but hits the ruling class who are the guardians of women’s oppression where it hurts; their pockets.
That being said, this strike is unconventional as I mentioned before. A paragraph from Strike4Repeal’s press release reads: “The strike will not be an industrial strike in the traditional sense but could include taking an annual leave day off work, refraining from domestic work for the day, wearing black in solidarity or staging a walkout during your lunch break.”
“We also encourage any business owners in a position to close their services at no cost to workers, to do so for all or part of the day as a solidarity action”. This kind of action is so easy to participate in, yet so distinctive; and that is why it is so alluring. It is time for something dynamic to add to the annual march for choice.
The implementation of the citizen’s assembly is a procrastination tactic by a government too afraid to take a solid stance on abortion rights in fear of alienating its conservative supporters. Importantly, whatever recommendation the citizen’s assembly puts forward does not have to be followed.
The slogan behind the strike, #WeWon’tWait, defines this action. The 12 women who travel to England every day cannot wait. The thousands of people taking abortion pills cannot wait. We must demand that this reality is acknowledged.
For more information on how to get involved, visit TCD Strike 4 Repeal’s Facebook Page, or their stalls in the Arts Block and Hamilton buildings between 12-3, running until Tuesday 14th.