Most older women support abortion change, repeal campaigners claim
Questions from public centre on future legislation, say repeal campaigners in Sligo
Eighth Amendment repeal campaigners in Sligo stressed there was little hostility on doorsteps, and a talking point was the high level of support among older people, especially women. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
With just seven weeks to go before the abortion referendum, campaigners on the Repeal side in Sligo this week say they found a big appetite for information and a high level of engagement as they went door to door.
Local artist Paul Murray reckons they had canvassed up to 400 houses so far, getting an overwhelmingly positive response. “But in fairness it was getting close to kick off in the Liverpool/Manchester City game when we were out on Wednesday evening so they may have been saying anything to get rid of us,” he said.
Most campaigners stress there has been very little hostility, and a talking point is the high level of support among older people, especially women. “It’s been really positive,” said Murray. “Out of hundreds of houses, I reckon we came across six negatives. Two of those did use the M-word – murderers – and they were both men”.
He also said he came across an older man who told him he would be voting Yes because, he said, “I have a granddaughter and I don’t want anything to happen to her.”
Ali Hayes and Lorri Kelly are also members of Sligo Together for Yes. The pair have been handing out leaflets and operating a stall on Sligo’s main street and at a farmer’s market.
“It could be my own bias that I just expected that elderly people would not be onside with us, but I have been pleasantly surprised,” Hayes said. “It is mainly women, over the age of 60, who have been through pregnancies, who have seen their own kids being pregnant, who have seen things which were difficult for other people and who perhaps have had experience themselves.
“I guess that illustrates to them that there are different needs in different pregnancies and that the current legislation isn’t really meeting those needs. So therefore they seem to be very in favour of change.”
Lorri Kelly (37) a social care worker, said the Yes campaigners were not taking anything for granted, despite the positive feedback. “I think it is tight but we are doing everything we possibly can to give people the right information,” she said.
The appetite for information is very evident, according to the campaigners. “The campaigners say a lot of the questions are about the future legislation “which I suppose is still a bit ambiguous,” said Hayes.
Kelly said that the 12-week limit for access to a pregnancy termination without conditions was also a talking point.
“But I think there is a big recognition that the Eighth isn’t fit for purpose,” said Hayes. “It’s not keeping women and babies safe as it was initially promoted to do. So there are people who are unhappy with the situation and they want change but they are just unsure what the change they are being offered is.”
Abortion Rights Campaign national co-convenor Denise O’Toole has also spent three nights campaigning and says it’s clear that people are following the debate in the media closely. “They want information ,” she said.
The issues that come up most are the 12 weeks and whether doctors and nurses would have a right to conscientiously object if the law changes, she said.
People on the other side of the debate tend not to engage with Yes campaigners. “There has not been hostility. If they do not agree, they just stay: ‘No thank you.’ Some say: ‘I have my mind made up already’; and you know,” said O’Toole. Pressed on the response of those not in agreement she said one woman slammed the door “but another woman who told us she disagreed with us did wish us well”.