Politics

Protesters gather in Dublin to oppose Texas abortion law

Protesters gathered in Dublin on Saturday to demonstrate against the highly restrictive abortion law introduced in Texas.

The Irish protest took place to coincide with hundreds of similar demonstrations across the US.

The Texan law effectively bans abortion before some women know they are pregnant, and there are no exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

Enforcement is solely left up to private citizens, who are entitled to at least 10,000 US dollars in damages if they are successful in suing not just abortion providers but anyone found to have helped a woman get an abortion.

A large crowd gathered on O’Connell Street on Saturday, with demonstrators carrying placards and signs sending support from “Dublin to Dallas”.

Ailbhe Smyth: ‘We understand your struggle. We know your fight. We are here to do whatever we can.’ Photograph: Alan Betson
Ailbhe Smyth: ‘We understand your struggle. We know your fight. We are here to do whatever we can.’ Photograph: Alan Betson

Ailbhe Smyth, one of the leaders of the campaign that successfully led to the liberalisation of Ireland’s abortion law in 2018, told the crowd that Irish people understand the fear many women in Texas are feeling.

“We understand your struggle. We know your fight. We are here to do whatever we can. We have been through it and we do not want it to happen again,” she said.

Ms Smyth called the Texan law an “absolute abomination” and accused Texas of creating a “citizen police state”.

Surge of patients

The law was signed by Republican governor Greg Abbott in May and took effect on September 1st.

Abortion providers there have described Texas clinics that are now in danger of closing while neighbouring states struggle to keep up with a surge of patients who must drive hundreds of miles from Texas.

Other women, they say, are being forced to carry pregnancies to term.

The Irish electorate voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment in a 2018 referendum, ushering in a major liberalisation of Ireland’s abortion law and ending what was effectively a constitutional ban on abortion.

Ms Smyth, who had campaigned for the removal of the amendment for decades, said that activists should not be “complacent” about the situation in Ireland.

“Maybe we do need to write bodily integrity and the right to it into our constitutions, into our human rights law.

“So maybe it is time to start campaigning again for that to be in our own constitution.

“Because bodily integrity is not only for women, it is for all those, everyone, who in any way might find their rights in any way obstructed by the law.”

Solidarity

Rita Harrold, an abortion rights campaigner from Dublin, said: “We’re here today to send solidarity to the huge number of protests that are going to be going on all across the United States. ”

She said that people shouldn’t have to travel to access abortion.

“It is really relatable to us in Ireland, that people might be forced to do that.”

“Can you imagine how full Irish prisons would be if everyone that had given their friend €50, had helped her to organise a bus, had helped her to organise a train, had helped her to organise a ferry ticket, was in prison right now for all the Irish abortion journeys that we’ve had.” – PA

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