USI President Síona Cahill speaks to Planned Parenthood

Cahill made the speech at the Power of Pink conference this weekend

President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Síona Cahill, also a member of the Irish Family Planning Association board, spoke at Planned Parenthood’s “Power of Pink” conference in Detroit this weekend. In her speech, Cahill spoke about the history of Irish abortion laws and the repeal of the eighth amendment.

In addition to addressing the “Power of Pink” convention, the largest volunteer and activist conference held by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Cahill also attended workshops, or “pre-conferences”, that were held throughout the weekend. These focused on queering reproductive justice, negotiation, engaging the youth vote, and abortion storytelling: “crossing barriers and creating change”.

The conference also saw Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood speak alongside Dawn Laguens, who is Executive Vice President and Chief Experience Officer of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Detroit City Council Member Raquel Castañeda-López, among others.

In her speech, Cahill spoke of the history of the eighth amendment, and what she called the “turning point” in the fight against it, namely the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012. Cahill claimed that “a switch was flicked” at that moment in Irish history.

In recognising the challenges faced from both potential voters and financial constraints, Cahill noted that removing the stigma around abortion was necessary in order to “make a crack in the hard wall of the abortion campaign”. She referenced many popular slogans, namely “sometimes a private matter needs public support”.

Cahill explained to listeners that a number of organisations, new and old, including the Coalition to repeal the eighth amendment, National Women’s Council and Amnesty International came on board to help in the battle to repeal the eighth. This was followed by an increasing number of women, couples and families who bravely told their stories and ‘demanded parliamentary attention.’

In concluding her speech, Cahill was thankful to those who actively partook in the referendum and that the “Yes” campaign was successful. She recognised the power of the “social justice warrior” and the “shrill tweeter” and urged them to “Keep being resistant. Keep resisting. Keep defying”.

“The Power of Pink” conference, which takes place annually, is a convention ran by “Planned Parenthood” which trains, informs and mobilizes more than 3,000 women and pro-choice advocates from across the world. The organisation also provides services in 600 health centres across the US.  

USI actively campaigned in the referendum on the repeal of the eighth amendment. The Union engaged in public speaking, organising marches, handing out leaflets and active engagement with the public, before the success of the “Yes” campaign which saw the repeal of the eighth amendment in May.