27 May 2018

Abortion: fight for the right in Northern Ireland

The Irish referendum result is a victory for women in the Republic, but it also highlights the power of Unionist bigotry in the North.

The resounding yes vote in the referendum to repeal the eighth amendment to the Irish constitution (banning abortion) is a major victory - mainly, of course, for women in the Republic who have been denied control over their own bodies with horrendous results: forced to travel abroad for abortions, unwanted pregnancies and even in some cases death. Abolition of the ban is long overdue.

One irony is that change in the Republic will leave women in Northern Ireland almost alone in Europe (except for those in Poland, Malta, Cyprus and the British colony of Gibralter) in being denied control over their bodies. For how long has the Unionist establishment in the North pumped out the prejudice that the Republic was poor, backward and religion-ridden? Yet now those insults apply to the Unionists. It is the DUP, which blocks progress not just on abortion, but on gay marriage, too. Religious-based bigotry now resides firmly in Unionism.

An obvious step forward would be for Westminster to change abortion law in Northern Ireland directly from London. But it would be even better to legislate for a referendum on the issue in the North. The result, almost certainly a yes for change, would humiliate the DUP, which, of course, is exactly why Theresa May, who depends on DUP votes to keep her government in office, would oppose the democratic option. And that is one reason why the Left support it.

No comments: