Still fighting the same fight after 20 years

Some of the women in Daunt Square were fighting the same fight 20 years ago — for the right to make their own reproductive choices.

There were plenty of men in the 300-strong crowd too, gathered to condemn the vacuum in legislation that allowed Savita Halappanavar to die. Sinéad Pierce, from Cork, brought her three-year-old daughter, Anouk. “I’ve been attending pro-choice demonstrations for 20 years,” said Sinéad. “I’m just hoping my daughter won’t be back here in another 20 years fighting for the same rights.”

Rachel Warriner, from St Lukes, Cork, who is 32 weeks’ pregnant, said she had come in protest at the “appalling and dangerous uncertainty” that exists for women and the unborn.

“I think that the lack of choice in this country is a huge problem and I don’t thing that peoples’ views are adequately represented in the Dáil,” said Rachel.

“There clearly is a significant proportion of people in this country who are pro-choice, but they are not being represented.”

Kerstin Fest, from Austria, was “astonished” that a woman could die in Western Europe because doctors felt they couldn’t carry out an abortion.

“In Austria, we have free choice up to week 14 and after that, an abortion can take place for medical, social, or psychological reasons,” said Kerstin.

A visibly upset Helen Gillen appeared to be in the minority at the protest, organised by Cork Women’s Right to Choose and Cork Feminista. “I am a nurse and I feel terrible about what has happened but, so far, the argument is totally one-sided,” said Helen. “As a Catholic person in this country, I am entitled to speak out too. My heart goes out to Savita, but is it right to stop the heart of anyone in this country?”

Michael Ryan, from Cork City, said what had happened to Savita was “disgraceful” and that “saving people’s lives was common sense”.

Jack Corbett, living in Bishopstown, said his mother had campaigned 20 years ago for the right to choose, and nothing had changed. John Nagle from Millstreet, Co Cork, a veteran campaigner, said “a man had to return to India without a wife or child because of politicians who sat in the Dáil and were cowards”.

Indian Arun Edward, who attended with his two-year-old son Jarden, said every Indian felt for the Halappanavars. He said he was shocked, but that he had three children born in Ireland and their experience had been good. “The treatment was really good and everything was fine, but I am wondering, if I would like to have another baby and if my wife has a miscarriage or something, what will I be doing?”

Arun said he could not understand why the doctors who were treating Savita had not sent her elsewhere for help.

Seasoned campaigner Máire Dorgan said there was no guarantee women would not still be on the streets in 20 years, fighting the same fight. “Anyone that’s realistic will know that misogyny and chauvinism are deeply rooted in society, and it takes a long, long time to change that,” said Máire.

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