Ireland

Hang up yer knickers!

Direct action prochoice performance collective Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A has launched a new prochoice campaign today called #knickersforchoice

Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne in The Quiet Man

Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne in The Quiet Man

The ladies in red are launching the campaign with a hysterical video that is a play on the John Wayne classic The Quiet Man. If you would like to support the campaign, take a pic of your knickers and tag it #knickersforchoice. You can send it to Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A via Twitter or Facebook

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WATCH: Protest at the Irish Embassy

Here’s the video of the demo organised at the Irish Embassy in London on Wednesday 20th of August to protest against the treatment of Migrant X at the hands of the Irish state. The protest was co-organized by Abortion Rights, Abortion Rights East London, Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A., the London Irish Feminist Network, 4o Days of Choice and My Belly is Mine.

Cristina from My Belly is Mine, speaking at the protest

Cristina from My Belly is Mine, speaking at the protest

The video features a special performance by Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A in which My Belly is Mine members were proud to participate. Please share widely.

Migrant X is Not a Vessel: My Belly is Mine at the Irish Embassy

My Belly is Mine attended the protest yesterday evening outside the Irish Embassy in London. The protest was co-organized by Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. and Abortion Rights East London to demonstrate against the barbaric treatment at the hands of the Irish Government of the woman known as Migrant X, a non-Irish citizen who was pregnant as a consequence of rape. According to reports, the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons,  sought an abortion early this summer under a clause in the new Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, saying that she was suicidal.

The case was referred to a panel of three experts — an obstetrician and two psychiatrists. The psychiatrists determined that Migrant X had suicidal thoughts, but the obstetrician overruled their decision by stating the pregnancy was viable. The unnamed woman, who is only 18, went on hunger strike and was eventually forced to give birth via a caesarean section.

My Belly is Mine attended in solidarity with the women of Ireland and performed alongside activists Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A.

Speakers at the protest included: Jo Tacon from Abortion Rights East London, Mara Clarke from Abortion Support Network, Ann Rossiter from Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A., Mairead Enright from Lawyers for Choice, and Cristina Ríos from My Belly is Mine. Cristina spoke of the cooperation between Irish and Spanish prochoice activists in London historically and at present. Indeed, there was a strong presence of Spanish women in the crowd, mostly from the Spanish Women’s Assembly.

My Belly is Mine has signed the statement by Reproductive Health Matters, calling on the Irish Government to repeal the 8th Amendment and to replace the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act with a law that prioritises women’s health and rights.

Here are some photos by Luca Neve and by Heather Blockey of the protest. More photos and a video to come.

Repeating Histories: Irish and Spanish Prochoice Activism in London in the 80s and Now (VIDEO)

British, Spanish and Irish feminist prochoice collectives My Belly is Mine, the Spanish Women’s Assembly and Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. will perform a protest action on the 2nd of August in central London to raise awareness of the Spanish anti-abortion bill, known as Gallardón’s law. The bill is soon to be presented in the Spanish Parliament. The action will also officially launch the new Spanish Women’s Abortion Support Group (SWASG 2.0), which aims to provide practical assistance for Spanish women travelling abroad to terminate pregnancies, should the bill be passed. This support group is the London branch of the International Federica Montseny Network, an initiative developed by Spanish feminists in Berlin.

Abortion Support Groups in London the 80s

This is not the first time a support group such as SWASG 2.0 has operated in London. Abortion Support Network currently helps many women from Ireland to have abortions in the UK each year. Abortion has never been decriminalised in the Irish Republic, whilst in Spain, abortion on request up till 14 weeks has only been available since 2010 and is now under threat by the antiabortion bill. In the early 80s, Ann Rossiter and Isabel Ros López, Irish and Spanish activists, both helped to set up the Irish Women’s Abortion Support Group (IWASG) and the Spanish Women’s Abortion Support Group (SWASG) respectively. In 1982, a staggering 21,000 women came from Spain to have abortions in England; over 8000 women came from Ireland, approximately 6000 of them from the Republic and the other 2000 from the six counties.

Prochoice campaigners now have the opportunity to hear Ann and Isabel explain why and how they set up the Irish and Spanish abortion support groups. The film Repeating Histories, produced by My Belly is Mine, Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A and the London Irish Feminist Network (LIFN), features Ann and Isabel in conversation at The Feminist Library. Ann remembers:

“With all these women coming… we wondered what in the hell we could do. And it’s important to say that this was very small scale. By today’s standards, things were quite primitive.”

In the film, Ann and Isabel share their experiences of volunteering in both support groups: they describe the organisation and the day to day of these support operations, how they managed to procure special deals for the women at clinics and raise funds; they tell too of the international spirit of cooperation of prochoice activists at that time. Ann also warns of the difficult decisions and financial costs Spanish women will have to bear if Gallardón’s antiabortion law is passed.

Repeating Histories: A New Wave of Irish and Spanish Prochoice Activism in London

Ann and Isabel often collaborate with Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. and My Belly is Mine in prochoice actions. Isabel is also an advisor to SWASG 2.o.  In fact, the name SWASG 2.o was chosen as a tribute to the work of Isabel and her colleagues. Not only national links are forged with this current wave of Irish and Spanish prochoice activism in the British capital, but also intergenerational ones.

For the 2 minute trailer of Repeating Histories, click here.

For the version with Spanish subtitles, click here.

Friends of My Belly is Mine: Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A.

My Belly is Mine have collaborated on a number of actions with direct-action feminist performance group Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A., including one in which we targeted the English Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt. The “Imeldas” are supporting My Belly is Mine‘s joint campaign with the Spanish Women’s Assembly against the Spanish abortion reform.

One of the members of Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A explains the collective’s work and aims:

Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A seeks to challenge the ongoing problem of Ireland Making England the Legal Destination for Abortion. We operate against the shaming and silencing of women living in the north and south of Ireland who have had abortions in England. The name Imelda was used as a code-name by the approximately 6,000 women who travelled to England for abortions between 1986 and 1995. The code-name was necessary since the Information Cases in the Republic of Ireland in 1986 made it a criminal offence to travel abroad for an abortion and to provide information and referrals for abortion services.

Since 1995, an average of 12 women a day have continued to travel from Ireland, north and south, to England for abortions. Apart from the considerable expense and stress of having to travel abroad for a medical procedure, these women are often denied follow-up after-care. In addition, in 2013, the Republic of Ireland implemented a 14-year prison sentence for women who have abortions in Ireland illegally. This has dire consequences for women who take pro-abortive medication because they cannot afford to travel or are not permitted to leave the country.

We want women in the north and south of Ireland, and women across the world, to have control over their own bodies and access to safe and legal medical services to support their choices. In speaking the name I.M.E.L.D.A. we wish to act in solidarity with those who seek to counteract the inhumanity of state legislation, which denies women the right to choose what happens to their own bodies and in their own lives. Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A is based in London. We do not represent anyone but ourselves. We exist in solidarity with pro-choice groups in Ireland and throughout the world who fight draconian patriarchal regimes.

Two of the Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. actions we’ve undertaken in 2014:

On March 8th, International Women’s Day, we interrupted a conference at the Camden Irish Centre.

This conference was titled Dissonant Voices: Faith and the Irish Diaspora. It was led by a group of Catholic clerics who see themselves as ‘radical,’ as well as ‘politically and socially engaged.’ In interrupting the conference, we aimed to highlight how ‘radical social engagement’ should include the right of women to choose what happens to their own bodies and in their own lives. The differing reactions of conference attendees demonstrate how our action did motivate them to engage with the reality of I.M.E.L.D.A. and of reproductive justice for women. There’s also a radio interview on this (coverage starts at 6.55).

Jeremy Hunt can make it easier for women from Northern Ireland to access safe and legal abortions in England.

On May 26th, we visited the English Secretary of State for Health, Mr. Jeremy Hunt, in a Sainsbury’s supermarket in Surrey in order to speak of a recent High Court Ruling which unfairly discriminated against all women from Northern Ireland. The ruling maintained that these women are not entitled to obtain abortions for free under the NHS in England, despite the fact that these women are residents and/or citizens of the United Kingdom. We emphasized to Mr Hunt that it is extremely clear from the High Court ruling that it is within his power as Secretary of State for Health to make it easier for women from Northern Ireland to access safe and legal abortions in England. In doing so, Mr Hunt and the English government would show support for full reproductive justice for women in Northern Ireland.

And we ate some red apples in front of Jeremy Hunt to symbolically affirm the right of women all over the world to bodily integrity and to determine their own life-path..