Una Mullally Is Taking On Ireland's 8th Amendment And We Need To Help

UK feminists need to step up for their Irish sisters

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In 1983, the Republic of Ireland's 8th Amendment was introduced. It explicitly provided a 'right of life' clause for unborn foetuses, making abortion akin to murder and therefore illegal.

Since then, women across Ireland (including Northern Ireland, which is not under the Republic of Ireland's constitution, but is still bound by the UK's 'Offences Against the Person Act' of 1861 and was not part of the UK's 1967 Abortion Act which legalises abortion) have been shouldering the cost of travelling to England and paying out of pocket for private abortions.

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Dublin-based journalist and activist Una Mullally is one of the women attempting to Repeal the 8th, and decriminalise abortions in Ireland.

Una Mullally

In 2014 Una published the book 'In The Name Of Love', which charted the progression of the fight to marriage equality in Ireland.

Now she's crowdfunding for her next book, called, 'Repeal the 8th', which has already surpassed it's target.

We reached out to the activist and writer to tell us about the project and how we can help women in Ireland.

So can you tell me a little bit about the book?

'This is an anthology of literature and design of work that has emerged from the Repeal the 8th movement, and the movement for women's reproductive rights in Ireland in general, in reaction to those movements, and inspired by them.

'I'm hoping to capture some of the mood around this movement through the lens of poetry, short stories, polemics, design, and personal stories. The production of the book was crowdfunded by Unbound.

'Thanks to everyone who donated, by the way!'

What a day!! Such solidarity among everyone taking part in #Run4Repeal 👏🙌👊 #vhiwmm #repealthe8th

A post shared by Coalition to Repeal the Eighth (@repealeight) on

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How did you get involved in the Repeal the 8th movement?

'Like many people, I've just naturally gravitated towards it as women's rights are something I'm passionate about.

'As a journalist, I've written a lot about women's rights in Ireland, so it feels kind of obvious to be involved in the movement at a grassroots level, in protest, advocacy, capturing the history of the movement, whatever is possible. I was also quite active in the marriage equality movement in Ireland.'

What are the roadblocks you need to overcome to see the amendment repealed?

'The primary roadblock is government inaction. Our conservative parties have gone out of their way to avoid this issue and not act on it, which is actually appalling when you consider the impact that is having on Irish women.

'They need to call a referendum, we need to have a frank and honest and truthful conversation about it as a country, and the people need to have their say.

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'Irish people tend to have more conservative views on abortion than other countries because firstly we've never had it, and secondly most Irish people go through a Catholic school system where anti-abortion propaganda is commonplace.

'Our reluctance to engage with this issue has created a climate of fear, stigma, misinformation, and conservatism. But that's changing, thankfully.

'People need to be allowed air their concerns in a civil debate, and we could all do better on educating ourselves on the issue. But when you have a government that is way too spineless to tackle something they view as far to thorny, it's incredibly frustrating. That's why it's the people making the change on this right now.'

What is going to be in the book and how did you choose what was going in?

'A big mix of stuff!

'There will be a good bit of design in terms of the various street art, graphic design and so on that has emerged; everything from Maser's 'Repeal the 8th mural', to the Repeal Project's design.

'There are short stories, essays, poems, rants, screenplays, loads of stuff. I hope that it will be thought-provoking, and also capture a point in time where art and literature is so much part of the activist's conversation, as well as the general social commentary.

'There are loads of great people involved; Mark O'Halloran, Sinead Gleeson, Aisling Bea, Tara Flynn, Lisa McInerney, Emmet Kirwan, and loads more.'

#strike4repeal

A post shared by Tara Flynn (@taraflynnirl) on

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Do you think art and creativity is a good tool for change?

'Of course! Change can't happen with out it because change is inherently creative, it's about coming up with a new idea.

'I think art and design and literature has really helped people engage with the movement as well. The graphic design and fashion element of the Repeal Project for example, has been massive in starting a new conversation and creating a sense of solidarity literally on people's chests.

'A lot of the writing of people's personal stories, or just compelling arguments for reproductive rights has had a huge impact as well.

'Stuff like Tara Flynn's recent new play 'Not A Funny Word' about her own abortion story is amazing. So I think art and creativity allows people an access point to the issue, and also visualises and verbalises it in a way that can often be difficult during fractious debates.'

No filter, @sarah1032's Polaroids. #polaroidandroid

A post shared by Una Mullally (@unamullally) on

What responses have you gotten so far, both positive and negative?

'The response has been massively supportive. The donations people made to the book are amazing, I'm really, really grateful.

'I think people are interested to see how it'll turn out. To be honest, I haven't received any negative responses, but if people want to complain about an anthology then I'm not sure what I can do for them!

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'The book is also acting as a fundraising mechanism, with 50% of my profits going to the Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment.'

Have you seen a shift in women becoming more politically engaged recently?

'I definitely think so. Like I used to wonder what it was like being around for second-wave feminism in the 70s, and now we're all around for this amazing third wave.

'There is so much energy in women-led activism, and there is so much of it. It's a domino effect I think, and also the fact that feminism has become more intersectional has increased its power and relevance.

'I'm 34, and I'm just in awe of young women in their teens and 20s who are politically active and engaged and are activists.'

What would you say the biggest misconception is about being 'pro-choice'?

'That people conflate it with being 'pro-abortion'. Choice is about just that: choice, the right to choose and the right to have those choices respected and legally allowed for and medically cared for.'

Love you, @berniesanders! #repealtheeight #freesafelegal #trustwomen #repealthe8th

A post shared by Laura Cunningham (@cunninghamlaura) on

What can someone in England/Wales/Scotland/or even the rest of the world do to help Repeal the 8th?

'People in the UK need to wake up to what's happening in Northern Ireland which has incredibly harsh laws against abortion and where people are being prosecuted for getting abortion pills.

'Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man are in the UK yet women are being denied their reproductive rights.

'If people in England, Scotland and Wales want to do something, then put pressure on their own government to help legalise abortion in Northern Ireland.

'Do what's closest to home, because that's where you can actually have the biggest impact, and what you progress in your own jurisdiction in turn helps and inspires what other people are trying to progress in theirs.'

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