Media, Censorship, Repeal the 8th & Reproductive Justice
Chair: Ursula Barry
Panellists (Writers, journalists, broadcasters and activists):
Ireland is on the frontline of the struggle for reproductive justice and abortions rights globally. All eyes are on Ireland as this country is – at this moment very moment – subjected to a referendum on abortion – a popular vote to decide whether the Constitutional clause should be repealed which deems foetal rights to be equivalent to the rights of pregnant women.
Censorship has always been a key political strategy used in Ireland, primarily against women, campaign activists and militant republicans. Banning of information on contraception – and more recently abortion – has played a strategic role in repressing dissent since the Irish Free State was established in the early 1920s. Publishing phone numbers of abortion services in Britain was successfully used by the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC) to bring members of students unions to court in 1986, in 1992 parliamentary privilege had to be used to provide the phone number of an Irish Women’s Abortion Support Group in Britain and providing any kind of information on abortion was sufficient reason to have books banned books until the late 1990s. Some particular examples of censorship characterised the early 1990s: Easons (the largest Irish national distributor of newpapers) refused to circulate almost the entire supply of the British newspaper The Guardian keeping it locked in Dublin airport because they carried an advertisement for a British abortion clinic and Cosmopolitan magazine printed a separate Irish edition in which they left blank the page with information on British abortion services.
This panel will bring together women journalists from a selection of traditional print and broadcasting media that have written from a feminist and gender perspective on the issue of abortion and contributed significantly to highlighting the consequences for women of the 8th Amendment (foetal rights clause) to the Irish Constitution. Reflecting on the way discourses and counter-discourses around abortion have changed this panel will look at the way in which misinformation has been a constant feature of the anti-abortion campaign rhetoric. How fear of the Broadcasting Act 2009 has fuelled different forms of censorship and self-censorship, and acted as a constraint on the media in Ireland preventing fuller and more informed debates, will be explored. The role of the international media will also be looked at and the strategies of the anti-abortion campaign towards the traditional media (in Ireland and globally) will be explored.
Feminist Activism, Repeal the 8th and Reproductive Justice in Ireland
Chair: Aideen Quilty
Anna Cosgrave (Founder, REPEAL Project)
Mairéad Enright (Lawyers For Choice)
Eileen Flynn (Traveller Activist; People Before Profit)
Goretti Horgan (Alliance for Choice, Derry)
Donnah Vuma (MASI – Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland)
The campaign to repeal the 8th amendment has finally arrived at the point where people in Ireland, and particularly those who could not vote in 1983, have a chance to have their say on women’s, girls’ and pregnant people’s access to abortion and proper healthcare. Others who are particularly affected by the 8th – migrants and others denied citizenship, people seeking asylum, people who are undocumented – have no such right to vote. With the day of the vote imminent, it is a good time to take stock of what we mean by ‘reproductive justice’ and the issues that are inimical to us achieving it – economic issues, class issues, systemic racism and racialisation, embedded misogyny, the ongoing outrages of the migration and asylum management regimes, to name a few.
In the clear hope that the 8th is repealed, it is an appropriate moment to consider the legacies of the long campaign to get to this point, and to consider where we go to next? In thinking of full reproductive justice, how do we address systemically embedded privileges of race, ethnicity, class, (cis)gender and citizenship and other power structures in the broader society and within feminist movements, feminist institutions and feminist organising in Ireland as we move forward? How do we galvanise an inclusive movement across generations of feminists that addresses education, consent, rape culture, and sexual violence, as well as the inequalities perpetuated in the law and by the legal system, in policing and other institutions of the state that affect women’s access to support, safety and justice?