A young woman in a pink bobble hat held a blue sign bearing the words “Feminism begins in the Womb.” As the march passed down Dublin’s O’Connell Street a repeal supporter jumped out, her hand in the air. “High five to feminism!” the repeal supporter shouted, and the pair shared the gesture.
It was a surprising exchange that offered a glimpse of what this debate could be; respectful, courteous and accepting of opposing views.
Saturday’s Rally for Life was organised by the Life Institute ahead of the referendum on repeal the Eighth Amendment, which recognises the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn baby.
A referendum will be held in 2018 on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which places an equal right to life on the unborn child and the mother. It follows the recommendations of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution that the amendment be removed and legislation introduced to allow for unrestricted abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy.
The turnout exceeded organisers’ expectations, they said, due in part perhaps to a Supreme Court clarification last week that the unborn has no constitutional rights beyond the right to life enshrined in the amendment.
People travelled by the bus from all over the country to march in the final Rally for Life event before the referendum, which is due to take place at the end of May.
Maureen O’Leary was among 48 people who made the journey on a bus that left Skibbereen in west Cork at 7am on Saturday morning. This was her first time taking part in an anti-abortion protest.
“I feel it will be close. But I cannot understand why we were having this referendum. The right to life is non-negotiable. Once you remove the first fundamental right of a human being, no other rights matter after that,” said Ms O’Leary.
She was among tens of thousands who travelled from all corners of the country for the rally.
To give a picture of scale, a crowd of about 5,000 had already arrived at Merrion Square when a garda confirmed the back of the rally was still making its way down O’Connell Street.
On Eden Quay as the marchers filed past, chanting “two, four, six, eight, we appreciate the Eighth”, two men stood outside a pub, each holding a pint. Both agreed the crowd was huge and the issue complex.
The taller looked out toward the passing crowd and nodded, before saying: “I heard the other day that the womb is now the most dangerous place to be in the world.”