US supreme court ruling ‘horrific step back for women’s rights’, say Irish activists

Campaigners urge a demonstration at the US embassy in Dublin on Sunday to protest ‘Roe V Wade’ decision

Overturning the constitutional right to abortion in the US is a “horrific step back for women’s rights” threatening a real risk to lives, Labour leader Ivana Bacik has said.

“The effect of today’s Supreme Court decision will be devastating,” Ms Bacik said.

“It will not prevent abortions, but is likely to cause real risk to women’s health in the US.”

Ms Bacik is among campaigners urging a demonstration at the US embassy in Dublin on Sunday to protest the decision by Washington’s Supreme Court to strike down the landmark “Roe Vs Wade” decision, which legalised abortion throughout the States for almost 50 years.

“We know from the Irish experience that restricting access to abortion does not prevent crisis pregnancy, but rather it compounds the crisis for women,” Ms Bacik said.

“We also know from our own experience that constitutional restrictions on access to safe legal abortion can cause serious risks to women’s lives and health. Indeed, the Constitution is no place to regulate a complex and sensitive matter like abortion.”

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties said the decision “could barely be worse.”

“Not only could abortion rights be rolled back, but equal marriage and even contraception are endangered,” it posted on Twitter.

The National Women’s Council Ireland described the development as “a major regression for women’s and reproductive rights in the US and globally” which will have “devastating consequences for women and pregnant people who need access to abortion care.”

However, Ireland’s Pro Life Campaign welcomed the US Supreme Court move and said it was a “momentous development for the right to life” and “the protection of the most vulnerable members of the human family, unborn babies.” “Since the Roe v Wade decision in 1973, there have been over 60 million legal abortions performed in the US,” said spokeswoman Eilís Mulroy.

“Such a shockingly tragic figure cannot be explained away by simply repeating the ‘right to choose’ mantra. It calls for something much deeper and reflective.”

Key influencers in the abortion debate in the US were women “who talk openly about their abortions and the devastating impact it has had on their lives” said Ms Mulroy.

“The debate taking place in the US on abortion is not all that dissimilar to the debate that has been happening in Ireland,” she added.

“Ultimately, it comes down to the value we place on human life as a society. Those who campaigned for repeal of the Eighth Amendment in Ireland like to think of the issue as settled. But as the debate in the US shows the issue is far from settled.”

Peadar Tóibín, leader of Aontú, said it was a “wonderful day for human rights and democracy.”

“It is the start, I hope, of a more humane and comp

Meanwhile, Senator Pauline O’Reilly, chair of the Green Party, said the ruling was “expected but devastating.”

“Women’s rights and confidence in the justice system have been destroyed,” she said.

Former TD Ruth Coppinger, a prominent figure in the Repeal the Eighth movement which overturned an amendment in the Irish constitution giving an unborn baby an equal right to life as the pregnant woman, described the US move as a “devastating blow for social progress.”

“The idea that - after half a century - abortion rights can be taken away in the so-called most developed country in the world by a cabal of unrepresentative Supreme Court judges is truly dystopian,” she said.

Ms Coppinger said the decision was part of a series of attacks on civil liberties “by an emboldened religious and capitalist right in the US.”

“It is poor, working class and people of colour who will suffer most with this ban,” she added.

“In Ireland, we only won abortion rights four years ago, so we completely empathise with what it’s like living in a country without this civil right. In the context of the expanse of the US, it is even more of an obstacle to contemplate travelling.”

People Before Profit TD Brid Smith reiterated that Ireland will “show solidarity” with the abortion rights movement in the US and protests will be organised over the coming days.

“Around the world, many governments have been moving toward easier access to abortion, with more than 50 countries (including Ireland) liberalising their laws in the past three decades. Today’s move by SCOTUS puts the US in the company of countries like Poland and Nicaragua moving towards greater restrictions on legal access to abortion.

“The REPEAL campaign in Ireland shows that we can win the Right to Choose and now is not the time for the movement in the US to mourn, but to organise a fightback against this backlash on women’s right to full reproductive care,” she added.

Fianna Fail senator Fiona O’Loughlin said the decision “marks an incredibly dark day for human rights and fundamental freedoms for women throughout the US.”

In the North, SDLP MLA Sinéad McLaughlin described it as “such a sad day for women.”

“When the US Supreme Court in the most powerful democracy of the free world rolls back on women’s rights, takes away their health choices, we need to be alert of the threat to all women’s freedoms and equalities,” she said.

“I’m heart broken for all our sisters.”

Brian Hutton

Brian Hutton is a freelance journalist and Irish Times contributor