The Fight for Abortion Rights in Northern Ireland Continues

The Fight for Abortion Rights in Northern Ireland Continues

The most recent vote in the House of Commons, which was followed by an outcry from some members of the public and political establishment, shows how abortion rights activists must keep the pressure on the political establishment. 

To this day, Northern Ireland is among a number of countries in the world without abortion rights, including Egypt, Iraq, and Malta. Worryingly, abortion rights are being eroded in a number of countries, including the United States with the recent signing, in Alabama, of the Human Life Protection Act which defines a foetus as ‘persons’ that isn’t that far away from the 8th amendment.

Currently, pregnant people seeking abortion in Northern Ireland still have to travel or procure safe, but illegal, abortion pills through services like Women on Web and Women Help Women. The number of Northern Irish people seeking abortions in England and Wales has increased by 22% which illustrates the urgent need for abortion to be legalised in the North. If they are not in a position to travel then their only option is to obtain abortion pills online and risk prosecution and punishment. This risk became reality for a mother who was prosecuted for providing abortion pills to her 15-year old daughter in 2013 – with a trial scheduled in November of this year. 

But it seems that now the outcome of this trial is unknown, following the most recent vote in the House of Commons. Just two and half years after the collapse of Stormont, if power sharing is not restored by October 21st, Northern Ireland could finally have both abortion rights and marriage equality. This is the result of tireless work by abortion rights activists and LGBTQ+ activists who put enough pressure on establishment politicians from both unionist and nationalist parties to put these important issues on the table. 

It can seem that change is inevitable, but it is necessary to realise that the work is not finished. Abortion right activists must keep the pressure on politicians that call themselves pro-choice. This means that the abortion rights movement in Northern Ireland must be a cross-community movement that doesn’t give in to sectarian pressure. Abortion and marriage equality are cross-community issues. It has been shown time and time again that public opinion is ahead of the positions of mainstream parties, a poll by Amnesty International in 2018 shows that 65% of the public in Northern Ireland believes that abortion shouldn’t be a crime, 67% of DUP voters also agreed that abortion shouldn’t be a crime and 78% of Labour voters think that the UK government should act to the change the law. 

With it just being over a year since the repeal of the 8th amendment, it is important to remember that the battle for abortion rights is not over. We won twelve weeks on request, but this right can be taken away by the political establishment. Even if power-sharing is restored by October, the issue of abortion isn’t going away anytime soon. Abortion rights activists in Northern Ireland will continue to push for the decriminalisation of abortion and public opinion towards the legalisation of abortion will only continue to grow. It is important to keep fighting on this issue, to make sure that the abortion laws in Northern Ireland offer real choice for all in Northern Ireland, not just in cases of rape and fatal foetal abnormality. 

Photo courtesy of Rally for Choice via Facebook

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top stories straight into your inbox.

A year of Greta

A year ago, Greta Thunberg staged her first school strike for climate in front of the Swedish government buildings. Little did she know that she would spark a worldwide movement and mobilise millions of young people around the issue of climate change. Criofan Morrison tells us her story.

Book Review: The Milkman

Tommy Gilsenan reviews the Man Booker Prize story set during the Troubles.

Why Are World Hunger Levels Increasing?

Rising inequalities and decrease in foreign aid funding are to blame for a rise in world hunger, writes Amyrose Forder.

Indie film or blockbuster: how you can support films that make a difference

The public influence the entertainment they get, and we should use this to promote films that give a voice to people who are usually denied a platform to share their opinion, writes Priscilla Obilana.

Review: Madonna’s God Control video

With a thought-provoking and graphic video for her new song God Control, pop star Madonna set herself on a mission to raise awareness about gun control, but found criticism on the way.

Female Sea Watch captain becomes a symbol of defiance

When Sea Watch captain Carola Rakete forced her way into Lampedusa harbour to bring rescued refugees to the Italian shore, she became a symbol of defiance, write our editor Cassie.

Women’s World Cup: A Game of Two Halves

Women’s World Cup: A Game of Two Halves

The popularity of this summer’s Women’s World Cup was unprecedented…

Record numbers of viewers tuned in to watch the matches. England’s semi-final match against the United States (US), with nearly 12 million views, was the most watched English TV programme of the year. Ditto France’s quarter-final match against the US.  

US viewership of the final in which its team defeated the Netherlands 2-0 was 22% higher than the 2018 men’s final. Remarkably, 88% of Dutch TV viewers also watched the match. Overall, FIFA estimates that this year’s World Cup has attracted one billion viewers for the first time in history. 

Despite Ireland’s team failing to qualify, Irish viewers also tuned-in in their droves, with a peak audience of 315,000 watching England’s dramatic defeat on RTE (surprise, surprise). The fact that Michele O’Neill was assistant referee during the final (becoming the first ever Irish woman to referee a World Cup soccer match) also helped to pique interest levels. 

There are several reasons for the dramatic take-off in viewership for this year’s World Cup. 

For one thing, the skill levels in the women’s game are increasing year on year. In soccer, skill is most accurately measured by the number of passes in a game, rather than by the number of goals. For instance, a typical English Premier League game contains more than 900 passes but this falls to about 650 passes for games in the fourth division. The average number of passes in this year’s World Cup is up 10% on 2015 levels, with latest figures from Opta showing the average game had 825 passes – and that data does not even factor in the knock-out games! The prize money on offer also doubled to 30 million dollars, compared with the 2015 prize pot. The fact that most countries broadcast the World Cup on free-to-air channels like RTE also helped to win more viewers.

Another key reason for the growth in women’s football is the transformative power of new, multi-million sponsorship deals. Some sponsors like Visa are now spending equally on promoting the women’s World Cup as on the men’s. UEFA’s recent unbundling of the rights to the women’s competitions in Europe also encouraged many female-focused brands like Avon to get involved. 

However, issues remain. The annual global wage for a female professional footballer is around 7000 dollars. In England, which has one of the wealthier competitions, a female footballer barely takes home one-hundredth of what a Premier League male footballer makes. These financial issues lead many female footballers to consider throwing in their proverbial boots. 

The US women’s team marked International Women’s Day 2019 by filing a class-action suit against their employer, the United States Soccer Federation, alleging that differences in pay and employment conditions between the women’s and men’s teams violate the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act because the women’s team is getting paid less despite engaging in “substantially equal work”

The US team also called out the FIFA scheduling of the World Cup final as “disrespectful” to the women’s game due to the decision to schedule the Copa America final and the Gold Cup final on the same day.

Closer to home, the FAI has attracted criticism for its perceived failure to truly progress the women’s game. Colin Bell, the former manager of the Irish women’s team, recently stepped down due to his frustration with how women’s football is being handled in this country. In Ireland, aside from the Senior Cup final, there is little to no coverage of domestic women’s football in the media or on television and the women’s game is definitely not getting the attention, nor the financial support, it needs and deserves. 

Don’t be a Fairweather Fan. Let’s show that our support for women’s football is not a passing fad! Now that the furor of the World Cup has passed, why not find out more about the Irish women’s national team and consider going to see them playing in person?

Photo courtesy of US Soccer WNT via Twitter

Browse more stories below, or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight into your inbox.

A year of Greta

A year ago, Greta Thunberg staged her first school strike for climate in front of the Swedish government buildings. Little did she know that she would spark a worldwide movement and mobilise millions of young people around the issue of climate change. Criofan Morrison tells us her story.

Book Review: The Milkman

Tommy Gilsenan reviews the Man Booker Prize story set during the Troubles.

Why Are World Hunger Levels Increasing?

Rising inequalities and decrease in foreign aid funding are to blame for a rise in world hunger, writes Amyrose Forder.

Indie film or blockbuster: how you can support films that make a difference

The public influence the entertainment they get, and we should use this to promote films that give a voice to people who are usually denied a platform to share their opinion, writes Priscilla Obilana.

Review: Madonna’s God Control video

With a thought-provoking and graphic video for her new song God Control, pop star Madonna set herself on a mission to raise awareness about gun control, but found criticism on the way.

Female Sea Watch captain becomes a symbol of defiance

When Sea Watch captain Carola Rakete forced her way into Lampedusa harbour to bring rescued refugees to the Italian shore, she became a symbol of defiance, write our editor Cassie.

The impact of the US Equality Act on LGBTQ rights; an Irish perspective

The impact of the US Equality Act on LGBTQ rights; an Irish perspective

A historic Equality Act, passed by the US House of Representatives in May, could protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing, the workplace, public accommodations, and other settings. While, several States already have such laws in place, more than half don’t explicitly prohibit discriminations based on sexual orientation. It is hoped that the Equality Act, which would be implemented at a federal level, would extend penalisation of such discrimination to the entire country. However, the legislation faces opposition on the grounds of the longstanding debate between the US Federal and State governments, as many politicians across parties feel LGBTQ rights should be dealt with on the more localised state government scale.

The Equality Act is facing additional opposition by the Senate where many Republican Senators have framed the issue in “religious rights terms”, arguing that banning discrimination against LGBTQ people would prevent people from expressing their religious views about sexuality and gender. 

Over the past decade, Ireland has attracted global attention as a country paving the way for civil rights protections for members of the LGBTQ community, with reforms such as the Civil Partnership Act 2010, the same-sex marriage referendum, Equal Status Acts 2000-2015 (ESA), and the Gender Recognition Act.

It is questionable however whether these reforms have fully vindicated these rights. For instance, the “Rainbow Report” (2019) cited Ireland as being 17th out of the 49 European countries on LGBT rights. Additionally, the report noted that in two biased motivated acts, which occurred in the Dublin area in 2018, there was no charges incurred by the culprits. 

Ireland, as a country with deep Catholic roots, faced religious arguments undermining the efforts of the LGBTQ civil rights movement. In the US, the ‘compromise bill’ proposed a middle ground between LGBTQ rights and religious rights. Moreover, it could be argued that LGBTQ rights could be recognized through the courts: the constitutional case of Norris v. Ireland recognised the unconstitutionality of the criminalisation of homosexual acts.

The domino-effect of the Irish reforms in the UK, namely legal gender recognition and the very recent vote to legalize same-same marriage in Northern Ireland, indicates that Ireland is taking a leadership role in the LGBTQ civil rights movement.

Photo courtesy of Jasmin Sessler via Unsplash

Browse more stories below, or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top stories straight into your inbox.

Book Review: The Milkman

Tommy Gilsenan reviews the Man Booker Prize story set during the Troubles.

Why Are World Hunger Levels Increasing?

Rising inequalities and decrease in foreign aid funding are to blame for a rise in world hunger, writes Amyrose Forder.

Indie film or blockbuster: how you can support films that make a difference

The public influence the entertainment they get, and we should use this to promote films that give a voice to people who are usually denied a platform to share their opinion, writes Priscilla Obilana.

Review: Madonna’s God Control video

With a thought-provoking and graphic video for her new song God Control, pop star Madonna set herself on a mission to raise awareness about gun control, but found criticism on the way.

Female Sea Watch captain becomes a symbol of defiance

When Sea Watch captain Carola Rakete forced her way into Lampedusa harbour to bring rescued refugees to the Italian shore, she became a symbol of defiance, write our editor Cassie.

DRC: fighting Ebola in conflict zones

In the DRC, the Ebola virus is not only spreading, but intervention has been made difficult by conflicts in some parts of the country.

Why self-care can be a radical act

Why self-care can be a radical act

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Audre Lorde, writer and feminist

What do you think of when you hear the term self-care? Do bath-bombs, luxury spa days or yoga retreats spring to mind? Is it reminiscent of a solitary walk in the woods or of curling up with a good book by the fire? Maybe it simply means cooking yourself a good meal or going to bed on time. More importantly, do you react positively to the term or do you view it as somewhat self-indulgent?

Self-care relates to the self. It is personal in nature. Thus, it makes sense that self-care looks different for each of us. However, the concept has an interesting and complex history that most people have forgotten about.

With the advent of the women’s movement and the civil rights movement in the United States in the 1960s, self-care became a political act. Women and people of colour perceived the white, patriarchal medical system as inadequate for their specific needs and – worse – as sexist and racist. To tackle hierarchies of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation, marginalised groups had to look after their own health, simply because nobody else would. For women, taking the time to self-care also went against patriarchal ideas about women’s role in society, as women are often type-cast as carers of others rather than self-carers.

As Sadie Trombetta writes, for these groups, “[self-care was] a courageous act that started with acknowledging that they had needs, that their needs were important, and that those needs deserved to be met, no matter what their oppressors said”.

Many black people at the time lived in the kind of sub-par conditions strongly correlated with ill-health. To help address this structural inequality, groups like the Black Panthers set up free community-service programs to look after the healthcare needs of their community and ensure their access to healthcare. Women’s groups took their cue from these community programs and opened health clinics to ensure women – particularly poor, working-class women – could get the care they needed. This often included access to reproductive services.

Around the same time, a broader wellness or self-care trend arose within society – however, this had more to do with improving quality of life than ensuring access to healthcare. People began doing activities such as yoga and paying attention to their diet in order to create positive health (rather than the mere absence of illness). By the 1980s, this trend had become mainstream and commercialised, and soon it developed into the mass billion-dollar industry we are familiar with today.

As a result, some argue that self-care has been hijacked by capitalism and that the concept has been reduced to something we buy – wholly divorced from its political origins. However, for marginalised groups the act of looking after oneself is still arguably a radical act for the reasons outlined by Trombetta. Furthermore, in airplanes we are told to tend to our own oxygen masks first before helping others. This isn’t selfish – rather, it puts us in a better position to help others and to deal with life’s challenges. Used wisely, self-care can help us become our best selves so that we can also serve society – a noble aim for any aspiring activist!

If we are seriously concerned about effecting change in our world, it is important to keep psychologically healthy so that we don’t become disheartened or burn out. The fact that the term ‘self-care’ was googled twice as much in the week after Trump’s election illustrates this point beautifully.

Now, where are my bath salts…?

Photo via Pixabay

Browse more news below, or sign up to our newsletter to get more news straight into your inbox.

 

A year of Greta

A year ago, Greta Thunberg staged her first school strike for climate in front of the Swedish government buildings. Little did she know that she would spark a worldwide movement and mobilise millions of young people around the issue of climate change. Criofan Morrison tells us her story.

Book Review: The Milkman

Tommy Gilsenan reviews the Man Booker Prize story set during the Troubles.

Why Are World Hunger Levels Increasing?

Rising inequalities and decrease in foreign aid funding are to blame for a rise in world hunger, writes Amyrose Forder.

Indie film or blockbuster: how you can support films that make a difference

The public influence the entertainment they get, and we should use this to promote films that give a voice to people who are usually denied a platform to share their opinion, writes Priscilla Obilana.

Review: Madonna’s God Control video

With a thought-provoking and graphic video for her new song God Control, pop star Madonna set herself on a mission to raise awareness about gun control, but found criticism on the way.

Female Sea Watch captain becomes a symbol of defiance

When Sea Watch captain Carola Rakete forced her way into Lampedusa harbour to bring rescued refugees to the Italian shore, she became a symbol of defiance, write our editor Cassie.

Consumers in the digital age: what’s our influence?

Consumers in the digital age: what’s our influence?

In this new digital age, we find ourselves in a new marketplace of sorts. With this new space comes relations among the players in this space and new power dynamics. The stage for these relations are social media platform – here, clicks, views and engagement equal revenue and profits. For consumers, it’s important to examine where they stand in this and how they can have their say. 

Often on social media platforms, the services made available to us are free, which serves to show that, in a way we are the service being provided. Be it through, our information being gathered or targeted advertising we are often being sold by social media platforms or its entrepreneurs. By understanding this dynamic a bit more we can decipher our own influence as consumers. 

We can take the example of a recent report of a social media influencer who has millions of followers, certifying her as an influential figure who has substantial control in the digital sphere. Nevertheless, upon releasing a line for followers to buy she only managed to sell under 36 shirts. This situation gives us further insight into the digital marketplace, telling us that despite appearances those with the title of influencers who have millions of followers may not be the ones truly doing the influencing. Enforcing the idea that though the power of influence appears to be with those with larger platforms, in reality the power, as with most things, lies in the hands of the multitude.

By recognizing our influence as consumers, we can better control our own online marketplace. On scales such as these, it seems impossible to imagine that we can have an influence on anything major. However, upon closer examination we see that appearances of power do not mean power, by knowing this we can begin to operate in this power. Ultimately, working towards a digital marketplace of our own design. 

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Browse more stories below, or sign up to our newsletter to get top news straight into your inbox

Consumers in the digital age: what’s our influence?

In the digital age, do consumers really have the power to influence the marketplace?

The right to a healthy environment: a protected human right?

Is the right to a healthy environment a human right? Several court cases, including Climate Case Ireland, are using this argument to make governments legally obliged to take action against climate change.

Can consumers control the conduct around climate change?

When discussing climate change people talk about what we as individuals and consumers can do to help save the planet, this puts a lot of responsibilities on consumers when we should take into account the actions of bigger entities.

German Circus introduces holographic animals into their show

Circus Roncalli are using holographic animals in their shows in an attempt to fight against animal cruelty.

Hedy Lamarr: not just a pretty face!

On International Women in Engineering Day, our Women’s Section Editor Cassie tells the story of Hedy Lamarr, a woman who should be celebrated in engineering history books, and not just on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! 

How can young people influence politics?

An interview with Youth Advisory Panel members from the LGBTI+ Youth Strategy to look into how young people can influence politics.

Nelson Mandela Day: how his legacy lives on

Nelson Mandela Day: how his legacy lives on

As the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa, Nelson Mandela’s determination and resilience helped overcome an apartheid regime and cement his status as an international peacemaker. Ten years ago, the United Nations General Assembly began to commemorate this special person on his birthday, 18 July. Since then, World Nelson Mandela Day has been celebrated using special hashtags #ActionAgainstPoverty and #MandelaDay. 

Mandela left office in 1999, but his policies and legacies continue to shape the social landscape of South Africa beyond a dismantling of an oppressive apartheid regime. In 2000, a quarter of 15-45 year old South Africans tested positive for HIV/AIDS, which amounted to over four million people. Nelson Mandela advocated for treatment and future prevention in a groundbreaking agenda. Today, while HIV+ rates remain high at 18.9%, South Africa has a fully funded HIV programme with 90-90-90 targets, the first of which was reached in 2017 – 90% of the population are now aware of their HIV status. Nelson Mandela’s determination to tackle this issue in governmental policy began this long road to a manageable epidemic. 

The clause with World Nelson Mandela Day is to honour Mandela’s sixty-seven years of public service with sixty-seven minutes of selfless acts to help others in your community. The Nobel Peace Prize Winner founded the Nelson Mandela Foundation in 1999, an organisation which works as “a committed facilitator of his living legacy … to promote his lifelong vision of freedom and equality for all”. The Foundation organises World Nelson Mandela Day alongside the UN, working to honour the statesman while encouraging international positive difference. This 18 July, it is worth remembering the impact that a single person can have in securing a brighter future for our world – and to carry that inspiration forward. 

Photo courtesy of Jeanne Menjoulet via Flickr

Browse more articles below or sign up to our newsletter to get the top news straight to your inbox.

The impact of the US Equality Act on LGBTQ rights; an Irish perspective

After the Equality Act in the US, our contributor Kathryn compares how LGBTQ civil rights have evolved in Ireland and in the US

Nelson Mandela Day: how his legacy lives on

On Nelson Mandela Day, we look at how his legacy lives on, in South Africa and around the world.

Hedy Lamarr: not just a pretty face!

On International Women in Engineering Day, our Women’s Section Editor Cassie tells the story of Hedy Lamarr, a woman who should be celebrated in engineering history books, and not just on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! 

World Refugee Day: UN urges wealthy countries to do more

This World Refugee Day, the UN reminds us that wealthy countries need to double their efforts to support refugees globally, as 86% of the refugees worldwide are hosted by developing countries.

Women still first victims of sexual violence in conflicts

Women and girls are major targets of sexual violence in conflict, despite United Nations measures being put in place nearly 20 years ago.

When Afghan women take their education in their own hands

All-female groups in Afghanistan, such as Zohra and the Afghan Girls Robotic Team, are leading the way in the fight for women’s rights in their country.