Crowds of expats and pro-choice activists are to gather in capital cities around the world today to support the call for a referendum on abortion in Ireland.
The solidarity demonstrations, taking place in 22 cities from Paris to Phnom Penh, are being held to coincide with the fifth annual March For Choice in Dublin.
Organised by the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC), the Dublin event will see campaigners assemble at the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square at 1.30pm for a march to the Dáil at 2pm.
Linda Kavanagh, one of the organisers, said the theme of this year’s march was ‘Rise and Repeal’, a comment on the failure of the Republic to live up to the ideals of equality set out in the 1916 Proclamation.
“The Easter Rising sought sovereignty and self-determination for Ireland,” said Ms Kavanagh. “Today, we seek the same control over our own bodies.”
ARC spokeswoman Janet O’Sullivan added: “We are tired of the delay tactics being used by successive governments who bury their heads in the sand, ignoring the urgent need and desire for change.”
The events abroad are the brainchild of two Irish bloggers known as the ‘Scarlet Brigade’, who issued a call to arms over Facebook less than two months ago.
They are backed by the European Women’s Lobby, which has condemned Ireland’s abortion laws as “restrictive and archaic”.
“It’s time for Irish society, as a true democracy, to make a clear statement that it values women’s right to reproductive autonomy and provide for safe and legal abortion in Ireland,” said Joanna Maycock, secretary general of the European Women’s Lobby, who will speak at the Brussels event.
Ailbhe Finn, one of those behind the Brussels gathering, said: “Countless women take lonely and expensive journeys to a place that is not their home to get a treatment they have every right to access in their own state. Today is about standing in solidarity with those who have made those needless journeys.”
Dubliner John Hyland, who works for climate activists Greenpeace in Brussels and is attending the rally, said his European friends were shocked at Ireland’s abortion laws.
“I talk about it quite a bit with people here and they are horrified,” he said. “They don’t realise how backwards it is in Ireland. Even most right-wing people in the US don’t advocate withholding abortion in the case of rape.”
Aoife Mangan, a Roscommon native who has been living in Brussels for more than five years and is helping to organise the gathering, says the issue will affect where she wants to settle down.
“This, for me, is about how I need Ireland to change if I am to even consider raising my children there,” she said. “When I look back on the anxiety that I and other friends, male and female, have experienced because of the lack of reproductive rights in Ireland, it all feels so unnecessary. I want my children to feel they have a choice, to feel they have control over their own lives.”
The Government has set up a Citizens’ Assembly to discuss the eighth amendment, among other issues. It will meet for the first time on October 15.
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