‘I had no real interest in politics, until this’ – Ireland’s accidental abortion activists

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On 25 May, voters in Ireland will decide whether to legalise abortion. Doctors, grandparents and those who have been forced to travel the UK to seek terminations have been raising their voices in a bid to shift the narrative

In September 1983, article 40.3.3 – the eighth amendment – was voted into the Irish constitution. It equated the life of the “unborn” with that of the mother. It gave rise to a ban on abortion in all circumstances from the moment of conception. It also led to a grave national silence, whereby abortion was outsourced to neighbouring jurisdictions, with Britain becoming a place of medical refuge for at least 168,703 Irish women.

Now, just less than 35 years later, a grassroots mobilisation of doctors, lawyers, parents, grandparents, tech professionals, psychologists, fashion designers, artists, midwives, nurses and more has led to an unstoppable revolution and a referendum on 25 May, which may well result in the amendment finally being removed from the Irish constitution. Siobhan Donohue is one such accidental activist. “I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be sitting here talking about my abortion,” says Donohue. “I never put my head up about anything. I was the kid who never talked in class. I did everything by the book. I had no real interest in politics, until this, until I felt this sense of outrage.”

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