Thousands march on annual pro-choice demonstration in Dublin

Thousands set off on the march today
Thousands set off on the march today

Thousands gathered on the streets of Dublin yesterday for an annual pro-choice demonstration.

They rallied at the Garden of Remembrance for the fourth March for Choice, which is calling for greater access to abortion services in Ireland, before moving off towards Merrion Square.

The ranks of ordinary men and women from across the country were bolstered by civil society organisations, trade unions and political parties.

Some protesters chanted: “F**k the church, f**k the state, women must decide their fate,” as they set off on the march.A new group launched on Friday ahead of the weekend’s march say they are made up of parents who are “committed to securing choice in all aspects of pregnancy and childbirth” in Ireland.

“Already our grown children are joining us on the streets to protest at the lack of respect for their human rights and bodily autonomy,” said Helen Guinane, spokeswoman for Parents for Choice in Pregnancy and Childbirth. “Our parents before us had to do the same, yet so little has changed for women in this country.

The scene on O'Connell Street today

“We should not have to protest, lobby and take to the streets to secure our human rights – as recognised in the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights – to life, liberty and security of person, for ourselves and our daughters. But we will continue to do so until our government holds a referendum and the right to privacy and bodily integrity are protected.”

However, despite a good turnout, Labour Minister of State Aodhán Ó Ríordáin warned that  a referendum on repealing the 8th Amendment “would be trounced” if it was held tomorrow, adding: “It would be 20 years before we can return to it.”

A spokesperson for the Pro Life Campaign said organisers of the March for Choice were in “absolute denial regarding the hurt and heartbreak caused by abortion for many women”.

Pro Life Campaign spokesperson, Dr Ruth Cullen said: “The pro-choice side are behaving as though they have a monopoly when it comes to the experiences of women who have had abortions.

“Sadly, there will be no time set aside at the march for the stories of the thousands of Irish women who travelled abroad for abortion and deeply regret their decision. Nor will there be any mention of the thousands of Irish women who came very close to taking the advice of pro-choice counsellors to opt for abortion only to change their minds at the last minute.

“These stories about the lives saved as a result of Ireland’s legal protection for the unborn deserve to be heard as do the stories of abortion regret. It’s very easy to attack the 8th Amendment if you also purposely block out all the positive effects of this life protecting provision.”

A recent opinion poll found that 28% of people will decide how they will vote at the next election based on what a political party or candidate says about abortion.

A Red C poll for Amnesty International Ireland in July found that 81% of people surveyed wanted either full access to abortion or access in the case of rape, incest, risk to health or fatal foetal abnormality, as well as risk to life.