Tuesday 17 October 2017

Thousands attend pro-choice rally in Dublin ahead of abortion law vote

Similar marches against Irish law taking place around the world

Demonstrators at The March for Choice in Dublin, a demonstration demanding change to Ireland's strict abortion laws. Photo: Tom Honan/PA Wire
Demonstrators at The March for Choice in Dublin, a demonstration demanding change to Ireland's strict abortion laws. Photo: Tom Honan/PA Wire

Jason Kennedy and David Young

Thousands of people took to Dublin's streets to call for change to Ireland's strict abortion laws today.

The March for Choice, now in its sixth year, is the first major rally since the Government set an indicative timescale of early summer 2018 for a referendum on the section of the state's constitution that ensures tight legal restrictions on terminations.

The existing Eighth Amendment of the constitution affords equal rights to pregnant women and unborn children. Added to the constitution in 1983, the amendment recognises an unborn child's right to life.

Terminations are currently only permitted when the life of the mother is at risk and the maximum penalty for accessing an illegal abortion in Ireland is 14 years in prison. Thousands of Irish women travel to Great Britain every year to have a legal abortion.

Demonstrators let off flares during a march for more liberal Irish abortion laws, in Dublin, Ireland September 30, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Demonstrators let off flares during a march for more liberal Irish abortion laws, in Dublin, Ireland September 30, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Demonstrators wear repeal clothing at The March for Choice in Dublin, a demonstration demanding change to Ireland's strict abortion laws. Photo: Tom Honan/PA Wire
Demonstrators march for more liberal Irish abortion laws, in Dublin, Ireland September 30, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Demonstrators at The March for Choice in Dublin, a demonstration demanding change to Ireland's strict abortion laws. Photo: Tom Honan/PA Wire
Demonstrators wear repeal masks at The March for Choice in Dublin, a demonstration demanding change to Ireland's strict abortion laws. Photo: Tom Honan/PA Wire
Demonstrators march for more liberal Irish abortion laws, in Dublin, Ireland September 30, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Jamilah Curran from Athboy Co Meath at The March for Choice in Dublin, a demonstration demanding change to Ireland's strict abortion laws. Photo: Tom Honan/PA Wire
Demonstrators march for more liberal Irish abortion laws, in Dublin, Ireland September 30, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Ray Lawless from Co Meath on The March for Choice in Dublin, a demonstration demanding change to Ireland's strict abortion laws. Photo: Tom Honan/PA Wire
Demonstrators at The March for Choice in Dublin, a demonstration demanding change to Ireland's strict abortion laws. Photo: Tom Honan/PA Wire
Demonstrators at The March for Choice in Dublin, a demonstration demanding change to Ireland's strict abortion laws. Photo: Tom Honan/PA Wire
Taryn Devere from Donegal on The March for Choice in Dublin, a demonstration demanding change to Ireland's strict abortion laws. Photo: Tom Honan/PA Wire
A demonstrator with a painted face poses for a photograph during a march for more liberal Irish abortion laws, in Dublin, Ireland September 30, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Demonstrators march for more liberal Irish abortion laws, in Dublin, Ireland September 30, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Demonstrators march for more liberal Irish abortion laws, in Dublin, Ireland September 30, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Demonstrators march for more liberal Irish abortion laws, in Dublin, Ireland September 30, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Demonstrators march for more liberal Irish abortion laws, in Dublin, Ireland September 30, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Demonstrators hold signs outside Ireland's embassy as they support the demand for more liberal Irish abortion laws, in London, Britain September 30, 2017. REUTERS/Mary Turner?
Demonstrators hold a sign outside Ireland's embassy as they support the demand for more liberal Irish abortion laws, in London, Britain September 30, 2017. REUTERS/Mary Turner?
Demonstrators stand outside Ireland's embassy as they support the demand for more liberal Irish abortion laws, in London, Britain September 30, 2017. REUTERS/Mary Turner?
The London-Irish Abortion Rights campaigners outside the embassy of Ireland on Chapel Street, Belgravia, London, as they host the 'London March of Choice'. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Demonstrators outside the embassy of Ireland on Chapel Street, Belgravia, London, as they take part in the 'London March of Choice. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

The rally, which was themed 'Time to Act', kicked off at the Garden of Remembrance at around 2pm before participants made their way to Dáil Éireann.

Read More: 'Abortion on demand not likely,' hears committee

The march is not just for women wishing to access abortion, but is for all women in pregnancy, according to National Women's Council of Ireland Director Orla O'Connor.

"We know there will be a referendum next year, so is great to see such huge numbers marching.

"We in NWCI have worked on this issue for over 30 years, and today really shows the huge support there is for reimagining a new Ireland - one where women's voices and experiences shape our reproductive healthcare."

A small group of anti-abortion demonstrators protested the march along the route.

A number of solidarity marches against the eight amendment are taking place around the UK and Europe, with a number more having already taken place in Australia and three in North America starting later today.

A parliamentary body has been established to advise on wording for the referendum.

The Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution is considering a report from Judge Mary Laffoy, who chaired a specially-designed Citizens Assembly of 99 people who deliberated and voted on the issue.

The assembly called for article 40.3.3, which was altered under the Eighth Amendment, to be removed from the Constitution.

It said it should be replaced by a provision which placed the onus on politicians to pass laws on termination of pregnancy, rights of the unborn and pregnant women's rights.

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