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Left Archive: Abortion Ireland – A Report by Sinn Féin’s Department of Women’s Affairs, October 1981, Sinn Féin May 6, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Sinn Féin.
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ABSF81

Many thanks to Alan at Irish Election Literature and the person who scanned this document.

To download the above please click on the following link:ABORTSF1981

This short document, issued in 1981, addresses Provisional Sinn Féin’s approach to abortion at that time.

It starts by noting that:

An estimated 10,000 Irish women will have had abortions during 1981. It is precisely because thousands of Irish women do travel to Britain every year that a recent E.E.C. report called for national legislation to remove the need for such lonely and desperate journey’s.

It notes that SF’s policy document ‘Women in the New Ireland’ states:

There is a need to face up to the problem of abortion no matter what individual opinions are. We do not judge women who have had abortion but recognise that it is an indictment of society that so many women should feel the need to avail of abortion. We are opposed to the attitudes and forces in society that impel women to have abortions. We are totally opposed to abortion.

It outlines the legal situation as regards abortion in both parts of the island and provides statistics as to the geographical and occupational data of those seeking abortion in Britain.

It also outlines broader family planning law and the provision of contraceptives in the Republic and the six counties.

The overview in Section Two: Organisations Pro/Anti-Abortion is of interest.

Of the Women’s Right to Choose Group they note ‘They see abortion as the fourth viable option to a pregnant woman after the choices of keeping the child, fostering it or having it adopted. Their commitment is to ensure that women’s lives are controlled by women themselves. They believe that every child should be a wanted child and not a burden or a point of resentment.

Of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC) they write:

Unfortunately they attract a great many reactionary types who would be extremely conservative on most social issues. Our research failed to find any of them involved with organisations who aid pregnant women nor have they protested at the limitations of the Health At whereby Medical Card holders – those least well off – have to pay for contraceptives.

It concludes:

The reasoning behind this report is to show that abortion is an issue in Ireland and will not end with a solitary sentence in a policy document. Any one of these statistics could be your wife, your sister or your daughter.
We believe that those who are ’totally opposed’ to abortion and those who see it as a tragedy and an indictment against society must work to improve conditions for and attitudes towards pregnant women.

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1. Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - May 6, 2013

It is not unlike éirigi’s discussion document document on the same issue. Except éirigi’s was issued in 2012.

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2. Oisin - May 6, 2013

A few years later a pro choice motion was adopted at an ard fheis but this was defeated at a later ard fheis AFAIK

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3. anne - May 6, 2013

I agree with the IRSP position on abortion and contraception

IRSP on the Right to Choose
30th November 2012

At the Irish Republican Socialist Partys first Ard Fheis in 1975, we were the first political party in Ireland to support a woman’s right to control her own body and choose abortion, a position unanimously reaffirmed by delegates to this year’s Ard Fheis. We call for immediate legislation to make abortion available, free of charge and on demand, through the health services on both sides of the border. We believe that any position short of that is insufficient and reactionary in 2012.

Historically, women were viewed as the property of first their fathers and then their husbands. They had no authority over their own bodies, and they were taught that their highest duty was to reproduce, regardless of their own wishes. This view persists today, where paternalistic states, supported by reactionary religious bodies, pass laws to control what women can and cannot do with their own bodies. The right to choose abortion is the right of a woman to have sovereignty over her own body, and to make decisions and choices about her body. Neither church nor state has a role to play in regulating women’s bodies.

We believe it is a sad indictment of Irish society in 2012 that a woman’s right to choose is still being denied. Every week almost one hundred women are forced to leave this island under a cloak of secrecy to receive a medical procedure that should easily be carried out, free from society’s imposed shame, in any hospital in Ireland.

The death of Savita Halappanavar in Galway in October should never have happened. Despite her desperate appeals for an abortion during a miscarriage, she was denied the procedure and she died. We support a woman’s right to choose abortion. It’s not enough to only theoretically allow it when the woman’s life is at risk. If a woman’s right to control her body and make medical decisions is to mean anything, she must have the right to choose abortion under any circumstances.

We also believe that contraception must be available to all women, free and on demand, so that they have complete control over their reproductive choices. To those who oppose both abortion and contraception, we say that you are hypocrites whose anti-woman agenda is plain to see.

The right to choose an abortion and determine one’s own future is part of a much larger struggle to empower women to take control of their own destinies and destroy the contradictions in Irish society that do not allow women to legally choose an abortion. Women must have this choice. We must struggle to win this right, and redress the imbalance in power between the genders, as these are battles in our war to separate church and state, and create a truly democratic, equal, and secular society.

As revolutionary socialists, we recognize that this requires more than just reform, it also requires a revolutionary change in society. Full gender liberation for all people can only happen if existing social institutions are abolished and the archaic values they represent are swept aside with them.

Reactionary religious institutions have exerted their influence to oppose the reproductive rights of women, be it contraception or abortion. Women must be free from the imposition of reactionary beliefs, and the state should not exist to impose religious diktat on anyone. An oppressive agenda towards women is very much in play in Ireland, with the Catholic Church, right-wing political parties, and the reactionary elements within Irish society preparing for a battle that, if won, would even further stagnate the struggle for woman’s liberation in Ireland. All progressive forces in Ireland must come together to oppose this reactionary agenda.

The IRSP supports a woman’s right to choose abortion on demand, and we call for legislation on both sides of the border to recognise this right.

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4. [link] A Brief History of Abortion in Ireland | feimineach.com - May 7, 2013

[...] Left Archive: Abortion Ireland – A Report by Sinn Féin’s Department of Women’s Af… (cedarlounge.wordpress.com) [...]

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