“If they get it, what will they do with it?” was the question begged by those opposing votes for women in 1918.
100 years on and I am excited and proud that the women of Ireland and their allies have the opportunity to answer that question in May 2018 when they turn out to vote on repealing the 8th Amendment. I hope that people use this right to vote for a more progressive, more equal and more forward thinking Ireland.
Of course, the referendum to #Repealthe8th, has happened because of the always determined, forever brave, sometimes ferocious and occasionally mutinous actions of those who have battled against Ireland’s repressive abortion laws for generations. In 2018, we stand on the shoulders of giants – we stand on the shoulders of the suffragettes, we stand on the shoulders of the second and third wave feminists, we stand on the shoulders of those who rode the contraceptive train to Belfast and back, and we stand on the shoulders of our first women TDs, Ministers of State and Presidents. I am so proud to be part of a movement that also builds on the activism of our LQBTQ+ friends who proclaimed “love is love” and appealed to the people of Ireland’s inherent instinct for equality and fairness in the 2015 equal marriage referendum and instilled the responsibility in those Irish abroad to go #HometoVote.
The fight for women’s suffrage 100 year ago shares the lesson that not all victories are easily won or perfectly resolved. In 1918, it was only women over 30 and who owned a certain amount of property who could vote and it wouldn’t be until 1922 that equal voting rights were in place. Additionally the movement was too often led by and for white women of the upper classes. In 2018, I hope we have learned to be more intersectional in our fights for rights and when we shout to #Repealthe8th, we do so with a multitude of voices which makes our message all the stronger.
In 2018, I hope the people of Ireland can look back on what Irish women and their allies achieved in May 2018, and that they feel as proud of our determination, activism, hope and courage as I do when I think of all those women who refused to be silenced, refused to let assault, imprisonment and castigation stop them from fighting for their right to vote.
If the rallying cry of the suffragettes was “votes for women”, then repeal activists are calling for you to “vote with women”. A vote to #Repealthe8th is a vote for choice, a vote for human rights and a vote for healthcare. By voting to repeal, you can use your right to vote to stand with women and to continue the long fight towards equality.
* When I talk about women, I do so meaning all those who self-identify as women and when I talk about women’s right to safe, legal abortion, I include the rights of all people who can get pregnant.