Ireland has some of most stringent abortion restrictions in the world due to the Eighth Amendment to the constitution, which was heavily influenced by the Catholic Church. But the Irish reproductive rights group ROSA is challenging these restrictions by driving a bus around Ireland to advocate for abortion rights and promote safe reproduction advice — just in time for International Women's Day, too.
The country has a dire record when it comes to reproductive rights. As the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) notes, "abortion is against the law in Ireland unless the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman. If you decide to terminate your pregnancy, you will have to travel to another country to access safe and legal abortion services." Furthermore, continues to IFPA, "Abortion is not legal in Ireland in cases of rape, incest, or fetal anomaly." Although the IFPA can assist Irish women with finding abortion services abroad, they state on their site that "it is not legal to provide this information over the telephone." Shockingly, in 2015 Amnesty International predicted that at least 4000 women are forced to leave Ireland for abortions each year.
That's where ROSA — which stands for Reproductive Rights Against Oppression, Sexism, and Austerity — comes in. The group has set out to campaign for immediate and drastic change, to which end they've arranged a bus journey — known as the "Bus4Repeal" tour — across Ireland to campaign for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. From March 6 through March 8, the bus will be driving between Dublin, Cork, and Galway, coinciding with feminist marches, demonstrations, and celebrations across the world for International Women’s Day. The bus will then return to Dublin for coordinated marches against the Eight Amendment known as “Strike4Repeal,” a mass walkout led by women and allies, and the “March4Repeal,” a demonstration in the capital set for March 8.
Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Rita Harrold, a ROSA spokesperson who is also on the bus (literally), explained the mission for the project, saying, “We’re protesting the almost total ban on abortion in Ireland and want to make it clear that when we say we want to repeal the Eighth, we do not mean replace the Eighth with a less severe abortion ban which says some women’s abortions are acceptable but that some should be shamed and sent to the UK." The group will also hand out information on the availability of safe abortion pills and, put women in touch with Women On Web, a collective of pro-choice doctors and activists who work all over the world. (Bustle has also reached out to ROSA for comment but received no response by press time.)
Ireland's oppressive and draconian laws have not gone unnoticed by the rest of the world. Last year, the UN’s human rights committee declared in a landmark ruling that Irish laws had forced Amanda Mellet to endure severe emotional trauma in 2011 when she was told she could not have an abortion in Ireland, despite the fact that doctors predicted her fetus would die in the womb or shortly after birth. The Guardian reported that Mellet travelled to the UK for an abortion, returning 12 hours later (sooner than the recommended recovery time) because she could not afford to stay longer. The entire process cost her €3,000 — and shockingly, her fetus’s ashes were delivered to her three weeks later by courier.
And although these terrifying events have occurred in Ireland, similar scenes could very well be unfolding in the United States in the future. With Donald Trump in the White House and both the House and the Senate controlled by Republicans, both the executive and legislative branches of the government lean strongly anti-choice. Indeed, the Republican "repeal and replace" plan for Obamacare announced on Monday removes federal funding for Planned Parenthood; what's more, Trump made a strange and unprecedented offer to Planned Parenthood telling them they could keep their funding if they stopped performing abortions. Note that all of this is despite the fact that government money does not fund abortions and hasn't since the passing of the Hyde Amendment in the 1970s.
If this week is any indication of how things will proceed, abortion access will likely see more and more restrictions in the United States — which means that it's not out of the question for the country to eventually end up in a place similar to Ireland's.
Only time will tell whether our societies choose to move forward with supporting reproductive rights, or regress further into dangerous territory. One thing's for certain: It's growing increasingly difficult for women to maintain autonomy over their own bodies in certain countries right now —but we have to keep fighting for those rights.