The mural by street artist Maser in Temple Bar, which was ordered to be painted over because of “political bias”

Today, millions of people in the republic of Ireland will go to the polls to make a decision that will define their country for years to come.

Today, the eighth amendment to the constitution means that abortion is still illegal, even in cases of rape.

Today, a woman whose baby is diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality is forced to carry child she know will not make it to full term.

Today, twelve women and girls will seek abortions in Ireland- nine will be forced to make the nerve wracking journey across to the UK, and undergo an expensive procedure often all by themselves. The remaining three will take illegal abortion pills, meaning that if complications occur, they cannot seek medical attention for fear of being thrown in prison for up to fourteen years.

No matter your opinions on abortion, the decision to repeal the eighth in Ireland is the correct one, because regardless of the law abortions will still take place- it just depends how safe they are. Though the eighth amendment of 1983 (abortion has been a criminal offence since 1861) means that a legal abortion can be carried out if the mother’s life is in danger, many women have fallen victim to Ireland’s firm pro-life stand point. In 2010, Michelle Harte was refused treatment by experimental cancer therapies after she became unintentionally pregnant- her doctors agreed the best step would be termination, but due to the harsh punishment for medical professionals who perform an illegal abortion, Michelle was forced to travel to the UK while she was extremely ill. Michelle Hart died a year later. Then again in 2012, the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar shook the country, but not enough to trigger a referendum. Savita began to miscarry her pregnancy, and asked for an abortion when it was apparent the foetus would die, but her doctors were unable to perform it as her life was not deemed to be in immediate danger. After a five day miscarriage, Savita died of sepsis- her death would have been preventable if the eighth amendment did not loom over our heads.

As the debate rages on in Ireland, pro-life campaigners line the streets with lies on their posters- for example, claiming a foetus can yawn and should not be terminated therefor- and gory images on routes which children take to travel to school. Yet the peaceful, positive “Together for Yes” movement hopes that tomorrow can be better, uniting communities in the pursuit of female bodily autonomy. In April this year, the Repeal movement had a mural put up in the wall of the Project Arts Centre in Dublin to send out this positive message, but this was ordered by the Charities Commission to be painted over as it gave the centre a political bias, while pro-life campaigners plagued the streets with the aforementioned bloody images, and false claims. Regardless of this set back, the Yes movement has been incredibly popular, with women and men lining the streets to buy “Repeal” merchandise, proving that you cannot paint over a movement.

Today, in a democratic, western European country, a woman still does not have the same constitutional rights as a man.

Today, the people of the Republic of Ireland have a chance to change that.

-Skye Brettell, Arts Editor

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