‘The woman who has had an abortion probably lives on your street and you just don’t know it’

Pro-choice group launches new campaign as referendum approaches

She Lives on Your Street: Eilish O’Carroll (front right), star of Mrs Brown’s Boys, at the campaign’s launch in Phibsborough in Dublin. Photograph: Maxwell

She Lives on Your Street: Eilish O’Carroll (front right), star of Mrs Brown’s Boys, at the campaign’s launch in Phibsborough in Dublin. Photograph: Maxwell

 

The State “cannot continue to turn a blind eye” to women who are having abortions, the Together for Yes campaign has said.

With less than three weeks until the referendum on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits abortion in almost all circumstances, both the pro-choice and the anti-abortion campaigns will be travelling the country this week.

Together for Yes launched its She Lives on Your Street campaign on Saturday. The Mrs Brown’s Boys actor Eilish O’Carroll, who was present, said: “Like many people in this country I’ve thought a lot about this, and my views have changed over the years”.

“I came to the conclusion that this affects all of us, directly or indirectly, no matter who you are . . . Women do not make this decision lightly, and I get very upset when I hear comments like, ‘They’ll use it as a form of contraception.’ This is insulting to all women.”

Sarah Monaghan, a spokeswoman for the pro-choice organisation, said: “We know that abortion is already here in Ireland. Every day women are travelling to the UK and they are taking abortion pills at home, alone, in the secrecy of their bedrooms and bathrooms, without any medical supervision . . .

“The most recent figures from the HSE show that approximately one in 20 women in Ireland have had an abortion. So the woman who has had an abortion probably lives on your street and you just don’t know it. She hasn’t told anyone, because the Eighth Amendment criminalises her and means a cloud of stigma and secrecy hangs over her decision.”

Ms Monaghan said the referendum, on May 25th, is not a vote for or against abortion. It is already here. It is a vote to regulate abortion, and to make it safer, and to ensure we care for our daughters, sisters, nieces, mothers and friends.”

Also present was Eilis Johnson from Phibsborough in Dublin, who turns 18 two days before the referendum. Ms Johnson said she has been canvassing in nearby Glasnevin and Cabra. “It’s been good. Obviously it’s a bit of a mixed bag, but it’s really nice to feel like you’re able to do something, and there is a lot of people out there who are hearing both sides of the argument and are really stuck in the middle. It’s just nice to be able to talk it out with people,” she said.

“I’m just about to start my adult life, and already I understand abortion is something that affects everyone around us, everyone in the community, whether you realise it or not. For me it’s just fundamentally a healthcare problem. Nobody is ever in a situation where they want an abortion. It’s always the last resort.”

Midwives Together for Yes, which was holding an event on Grafton Street in Dublin, said extreme imagery used by an anti-abortion group outside the capital’s three maternity hospitals earlier this week was “very insensitive”.

Philomena Canning, chairwoman of the midwives’ group, said: “When you consider the reality that women and couples attending maternity hospitals and may be getting bad news, it was very insensitive, and no healthcare professionals were in support of that approach.”

The Save the 8th group has also asked those who have been posing with graphic billboards outside maternity hospitals in Dublin to stop.