Distrust politicians? - Vote for Repeal because we forced them to call the referendum, we are the rebellion


One of the more bizarre elements of the pro-choice referendum in Ireland has been the attempt by anti-choice campaigners to portray themselves as rebels.  This while defending a 35 year old ban on abortion that was introduced to copper fasten the status quo back then.   This is providing something of an excuse however for some characters on the left (generally men) to adopt anti women positions on the basis that the 'establishment' is now backing change.  A couple of our members take this argument apart below.

Trusting politicians does not come easy - distrust comes far easier. In the fight for votes in the Repeal referendum the issue of distrusting politicians has been raised by the anti-choice side. Politicians do have poor track record, tending to leave a litany of broken promises in their wake. We all remember different promises broken - I remember the one about ‘ to protect the vulnerable’ when this battered ship sailed into the storm of austerity. In Ireland, even politicians say things like ‘you can’t trust politicians’. It as if by saying that they are exempting themselves from being politicians, and saying, you can trust us again.

Trust and distrust are flip sides of a coin. The answer you give frequently depends on this. Are you dancing? Who is asking? On the bottom of some No posters it says 'join the rebellion’. There is a gross twisting of the truth going on here. It can be compared with Darth Vader stretching out his gloved hand and asking you to join the rebellion. Essentially it is the empire of misogyny doing everything in its power to gain a single no vote. Their mind trick here is that if the Government want you to vote for something that you should vote the other way. It hinges on the inherent distrust factor.

In a campaign, just as in a war, the first casualty is truth. The Brexit campaign in the UK was all about not trusting the government - Trump’s election in the US was based on not trusting the established political classes. Now in Ireland, the No campaign is attempting to appeal to anti-establishment sentiment to defeat the Repeal campaign, which is gross irony, given that the real rebellion has been the movement to remove restrictions to women’s reproductive healthcare from the Constitution. It was the old empire that brought in the 8th Amendment - and the right-wing Catholic fundamentalists working to retain it now portray keeping this miserable law on the books as an act of rebellion!

It is true that after being forced to call a referendum the Government is weakly backing a Yes vote. And weakly is the word, Leo has said Fine Gael will spend 50,000, not even a tenth of what Together For Yes raised in a single week of online crowdfunding that saw over 10,000 people donate an average of 50 or so euro. They don’t even intend to put up their own posters. Our 30 year rebellion against the 8th forced the referendum out of them and they’ve more or less told us to get it passed. Fianna Fail are worse, backing both Yes & No camps with their deputy leader being a speaker at a No public meeting in Castlebar. Of the mainstream parties only Sinn Fein and Labour are seriously campaigning for a Yes vote.

There has been consistent rebellion against the introduction of the 8th Amendment into the Constitution in 1983, as detailed here [Workers Solidarity Twitter History thread on the rebellion against the 8th Amendment ]. Much of this opposition was based on people taking to the streets in large scale demonstrations around attempting to allow young women to travel to the UK for abortions. Generations have been mobilised around this issue, see where this referendum came from [See previous article on 3rd April]

It has taken 35 years of public pressure around the forced travel that thousands of women have been subjected to in order to acquire basic healthcare, to drag politicians towards this referendum. The failure of related governments to legislate for abortion in very limited circumstances following the 1992 ‘X’ Case ruling, and then again since 2002, led to continued protest and pressure which came to a head in 2012, when a young woman, Savita Halappanavar died following a miscarriage at 16 weeks’ gestation. Savita and her husband had repeatedly begged for her pregnancy to be terminated but were refused because of the presence of a foetal heartbeat and were famously informed by a nurse that this is a ‘Catholic country’. Savita’s tragic death ignited the Repeal movement to push for the final removal of the 8th Amendment.
Abortion in Ireland has been an issue consistently ignored and opposed by generations of political parties in this country. The story of the 8th Amendment is the story of a long struggle, by mostly women activists, to drag politicians towards this referendum. As we approach the day of the referendum, it is highly disingenuous to suggest that voting NO is rebellious or will hurt the government in some way.

Who a No vote will hurt, is the person who is pregnant and unable to get an abortion in Ireland. It will hurt those who are pregnant and unable to travel. Now a young woman can end up taking pills which they order online and take in unsupervised medical conditions. It will prevent Doctors from giving the ultimate and safest caring and compassionate healthcare. It will mean we continue the practice of sending or forcing women who can afford it to travel abroad to get abortions. It will put people under huge amounts of stress when they need to be supported, comforted, and helped. It will mean that some young woman can end up isolated, alone, and suicidal. It will mean that we risk another woman losing her life in an Irish maternity hospital.

We need this to be a YES, so that we can move towards a full caring compassionate free healthcare system which allows for abortion in Ireland. The voter counts, and the voter will get listened too in a referendum. The answer should be loud and unequivocal, and it should be yes.

People are crying out for information. The referendum came about through a period of wide ranging consultation - the Citizens’ Assembly, followed by the Joint Oireachtas Committee’s deliberations on the 8th Amendment. People want to hear the arguments and the state and other broadcasters have a vital role and a significant duty to perform in relation to this. Alas we hold out little hope of it being able to do so. The Coughlan judgment calls for ‘balance’, or 50-50 coverage in radio and television coverage of a referendum or election issue. What that has created is a policy where each side is given access to the airwaves to state their position, and it usually is unchallenged. The history of lobby groups like the Iona Institute taking legal action against RTE has created an atmosphere where much of the coverage given to the anti-choice side remains unchallenged. Therefore media coverage amounts to allocation of propaganda time to the anti-choicers, allowing them to shape the narrative of the campaign with untruths, exaggeration and base fear mongering. Thus, Repeal of the 8th Amendment has become the ‘abortion referendum’, employing nurses who are not really nurses, doctors who are not doctors, and facts that are not facts.

I have heard other concerns in relation to, when we vote on this, we will never get to vote on it again. YES, but why should we continue to vote on something which should be a basic part of healthcare in this country. This should not have been put into the laws of this land in the first place, as you were then equating the life of a woman who happened to be pregnant, as being the same as the foetus. That is a relegation or rights, a removal of rights, a negation of rights, and that does not belong in the laws of a land. We should never have been put in a position to fight for the removal of the 8th Amendment, because this negation of rights should never have been put into the Constitution in the first place.
So yes, we will not have to vote on this again, if we vote Yes, but we will have to continue to force the political parties and leaders, so that we win reproductive rights in Ireland, and so that we ensure that we reinstate the rights of a woman so that she does not have them relegated as soon as she becomes pregnant. The removal of the 8th amendment will be another in a long line of victories against the establishment even if, of course, they will subsequently want to pretend they were on our side all along. As they have pretended with everything from marriage equality to access to contraception - we remember their defeats even if they wish us to forget.