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External groups visit campus on abortion issue

A bus travelling across Ireland in support of the ‘Repeal the 8th’ movement arrived in UCC on the morning of March 7th. The campaign was hosted by pro-choice group ROSA (Reproductive rights against Oppression, Sexism and Austerity), in conjunction with Women on Web, an online medical abortion service. Spokesperson for the campaign, Rita Harrold, elaborated on the aims of the campaign: “We want to get the message out there about the need for repeal but also about the alternatives available in the meantime…We’ll be bringing that message around Ireland and college campuses, we have a leaflet outlining exactly how medical abortion works.”

The bus travelled to major cities and colleges in the lead up to International Women’s Day on March 8th. It arrived on Winthrop Street in Cork city on March 6th to approximately 300 people, who came out to support the bus. Many prominent public figures were in attendance, including Ruth Coppinger, T.D. A post-rally discussion and social was held shortly afterwards, where the main topic of discussion was strategy to win a possible referendum for repeal. The arrival on campus was similarly well attended, despite the poor weather conditions, suggesting a strong level of support for the Repeal the 8th movement among UCC students as a whole, mirroring positive results in last year’s referendum that led to UCCSU adopting a pro-choice stance.

Spokesperson for the campaign, Mel Ní, refers to Ireland’s abortion laws as “archaic,” explaining that “[m]aking abortion illegal doesn’t stop abortion; it stops SAFE abortion and women die as a result. The WHO estimates that a woman dies from an unsafe abortion every 8 minutes. If the Irish government refuses women the right to access basic healthcare in their own country, groups like ROSA, in conjunction with WomenOnWeb.Org will step in and ensure that every single person in this country, regardless of their situation, background or colour, has access to safe abortion. We care about women’s lives and women’s health and we respect and support every woman’s individual choice.”

Protesters from anti-abortion groups were also present both the day before and the day of the arrival of the bus. Members of the group ‘Students for Life’ appeared outside the main gates of UCC on the Monday morning, handing out leaflets to passersby. A counter-protest on the Tuesday was peaceful, and went without incident.  Pro Life Campaign spokesperson Cora Sherlock has called the ‘Bus4Repeal’ campaign a “cheap stunt” that shows “disregard for health and safety.”

The bus tour comes as the Citizens Assembly meet this week to discuss the abortion ban, and as the Dáil voted down a Bill from the AAA/PBP that would seek to reduce the punishment for women who have abortions to a €1 fine. The current law in Ireland imposes a 14 year jail term on women convicted of having abortions.