Actions not Words 

The 8th Amendment is a workplace issue

At 11am on Tuesday, April 28th in Buswells Hotel, the Trade Union Campaign to Repeal 8 hosted a press conference to mark May Day, to reiterate that abortion is a workplace issue and to support a third Bill to repeal Article 40.3.3 (the Constitutional ban on abortion) which will be debated on Friday, May 8th. The Bill, published last September by Socialist Party TDs, Ruth Coppinger and Joe Higgins,  has been drawn from a lottery of Bills awaiting debating time in the Dail.

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John Douglas, general secretary, Mandate, said: “Trade unions are more than about representing workers in their jobs. We are a community, representing workers and their families, both in workplaces across this country and in wider society. That’s why repealing the 8th Amendment is one of the most important issues for our movement right now. Women in Ireland deserve to have their voices heard and they should be the only people making decisions about their own bodies.

“The UN Human Rights Committee has been highly critical of our restrictive legislation. They have told us time and again how Irish abortion laws violate human rights and are a serious breach of our country’s international obligations. We can no longer allow this archaic and inept political decision to impact so negatively on women’s lives. We need change, and for that change to happen, we need politicians who have the courage to stand up for the human rights of all women in Ireland. They need to put women first for a change and they can do so by supporting this legislation.”

Deputy Ruth Coppinger said: “This government is under real pressure on this issue, having had the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar; the effective torture of a pregnant migrant teenage rape victim; and the disgrace of a clinically dead pregnant woman used as an incubator.

“Labour – which stands for repeal of the 8th Amendment – now has a third chance to allow a referendum to end this hypocritical and medieval law which equates a woman with a foetus and endangers women’s health is endangered. Our demand is for a referendum to remove this in the lifetime of this government, not to kick it to touch for another 32 years while thousands of women deal each year with crisis pregnancies.”

Taryn Trainor, regional equalities officer, Unite, said: “Abortion must be decriminalised and article 40.3.3 repealed as a first step to enabling women to access safe, legal and affordable terminations in Ireland.

“Each woman who has travelled to obtain a procedure which should be safe and legal in their home country is an indictment of the Irish state.”

Ailbhe Smyth, Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment, said: “Article 40.3.3 is a relic of a bygone era: the era of symphiosotomy, mother and baby homes, the Magdalen Laundries, clerical sexual abuse. We now live in a more liberal country. Opinion polls consistently show that attitudes to abortion in Ireland have changed radically. This amendment is a barrier to progress; it denies women’s rights and dignity.  We call on politicians to support this Bill and repeal the 8th amendment.”

Laura Duggan, Trade Union Campaign to Repeal 8, said: “The 8th Amendment is a major source of inequality and discrimination.  Its effects are particularly harsh for women on low incomes – abortions are expensive; getting time off work is difficult. For many migrant women the situation is worse: they cannot travel abroad.

“Abortion is a reality in Ireland and the cost for women with unwanted pregnancies is incalculable. They have to find at least €1,500 to travel abroad, often alone and in distress. CSO figures show 50% of women earn €20,000 or less which means this dilemma falls hardest on the poorest. And if they go to the internet for abortion pills, they – and anyone who may have helped them out – face up to 14 years in jail. Article 40.3.3 must be repealed and we call on all the politicians who’ve said they favour repeal, to support Ruth Coppinger’s Bill on May 8th.”

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The TU Campaign to Repeal 8 is a group of trade unionists calling on the trade union movement to join the move to repeal the 8th Amendment to our Constitution. For working women, who now make up half the workforce in Northern Ireland and almost half in the south, the amendment that equates the life of a woman with that of a foetus is an affront to their equal rights. We believe it is the duty of all trade unions to secure its removal.

The TU Campaign to Repeal 8 is affiliated to the Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment and is supported by Mandate, Unite the Union, the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, Bray and District Trades Council and Waterford Trades Council. Our email is tradeunions2014@gmail.com or Like us at TURepealthe8th on Facebook

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