Page 1

n o n i g t i r a o p b m A a C t s r t o h g p e Ri R l a u n n A 4 1 0 2


Contact us Email Phone: 089 226 2048 Email us for most current postal address. Get updates from our blog: Email us to sign up to our monthly newsletter @freesafelegal


bortion Rights Campaign

photo by Grace Wilentz

Abortion Rights Campaign

Introduction The seeds of the Abortion Rights Campaign were planted on 10th July 2012, when 40 women and men huddled over tea and biscuits in a cramped room to discuss collaborating on a concerted pro-choice effort. The short-lived Irish Choice Network was created, but it grew so quickly and gained so much momentum that it soon became clear that a proper island-wide movement was needed. Thus, a grassroots organisation, the Abortion Rights Campaign, blossomed into one of Ireland’s most promising campaigns in recent history. We declared our primary goals: Repeal the 8th Amendment and make abortion free, safe, and legal to those who need it. The Abortion Rights Campaign sprung up just in time to fight some serious political battles. In October 2012, only weeks after the first annual March for Choice, we learned of the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar in Galway, who was denied abortion services when experiencing a miscarriage. In July 2013, the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was passed, despite its many failings, which include criminalisation of abortion with 14 years imprisonment, and an evaluation process for eligibility so traumatic and difficult to navigate that the net result is reduced abortion access. The Act failed at the expense of the most vulnerable: the poor, the infirm, those at risk of suicide, and those who cannot travel. After the Act came into law in 2014, the world watched in horror as a raped migrant woman, Ms Y, was subjected to a nightmare of bureaucracy, travel, arrest, court orders, hunger strike, forced pregnancy, caesarean section, and finally forced childbirth.

While the Irish statute book remains resolutely regressive, their constituents have not. The Irish public have evolved much further and more quickly than their elected representatives. 4

While the Irish statute book remains resolutely regressive, their constituents have not. The Irish public have evolved much further and more quickly than their elected representatives. We now witness a debate and a growing consensus for change across society that is a far more compassionate and informed conversation than those held on the subject in Leinster House (the parliament of the Irish state). The Abortion Rights Campaign works to ensure that our movement remains open to those who wish to participate in this drive for change, and to represent all who seek abortion for the many reasons that people do so. Our important work includes breaking down the stigma of abortion, building a society where abortion is not taboo, where it is responsibly provided for as part of a modern health care system. We have no paid staff or core funding. We are a grassroots, membership-based, voluntary campaign. Our strength is that of our members, which is why we grow and strengthen with every passing month and with every new opinion poll. In 2014, our activists broke new ground and forged new spaces for choice and stigma busting. In a trail of purple, yellow, and green, we addressed the United Nations in Geneva, presented to the European Parliament in Brussels, worked with global leaders in reproductive rights in Lisbon, learned from abortion providers in Slovenia, and shared our stories with artists in Sweden. Most importantly though, we worked with one another and grew together. From film screenings to art installations; photo shoots; demos; pickets; street stalls; stickers, book fairs; round-tables; speak-outs; trainings; radio, television, and film appearances; and the largest yet annual March for Choice, we collaborated and supported each other, building and strengthening the Abortion Rights Campaign. We continue our work in Dublin, Cork and Galway while growing and extending to Limerick and outside of the main urban areas. In our commitment to living on an island where abortion is free, safe, and legal, we support Alliance for Choice in fighting for access to reproductive justice in Northern Ireland. As we face future challenges, we know there’s still a long way to go to achieving our main objectives, and even more work in maintaining those hard won human rights. We will continue to witness the destructive and alarming behaviour

of anti-choice groups who have more financial resources than we could dream of. We understand that the tragedies for those denied abortion access will be repeated, and our worst fears will continue to be realised until we are successful. We share and reflect the terrible sadness and outrage these events create, but we are further determined to transform those emotions into thoughtfully considered actions for change. As you learn more about our organisation and its activities from November 2013 to October 2014 in this report, consider the ways in which you can become involved, whether that’s through attending an open meeting, becoming a member, marching with us, supporting us through social media, donating or raising funds, joining one of our working groups, or contacting us with an idea of your own. The Abortion Rights Campaign is very proud of the work we have done so far and what we have achieved, but we can’t do it without people like you. We look forward to another productive and powerful year of struggle and hope you will join with us as we demand free, safe and legal abortion in Ireland. Solidarity, Abortion Rights Campaign

free safe legal 5

Abortion Rights Campaign

About the Abortion Rights Campaign The Abortion Rights Campaign is a movement for choice and change in Ireland. We aim to promote broad national support for a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland, to push for the introduction of extensive abortion legislation by the Northern Ireland Assembly, and to ensure the health and rights of women in pregnancy are protected in line with international human rights standards. We believe women can be trusted to choose for themselves. So do the majority of people in Ireland. However, in Ireland and Northern Ireland, there are many barriers to women’s full reproductive rights. If we work together, we can dismantle these barriers so that women and their families can make their own decisions for themselves.

The Aims of the Abortion Rights Campaign •


Lift the stigma and silence surrounding abortion and women’s reproductive health care choices through educational programmes and awareness-raising projects and by facilitating people to share their abortion experiences in supportive and empowering environments.  romote broad national support for a referendum to P repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution by Dáil Éireann, to push for the introduction of extensive abortion legislation by the Northern Ireland Assembly, and to ensure the health of women in pregnancy is protected in accordance with international human rights standards.  ducate the public and policy makers about the need E for access to free, safe and legal abortion options in Ireland for all who need it, regardless of citizenship or financial capacity, in line with provision of other basic health care options.

 obilise national support from a diverse range of M groups, organisations, trades unions, communities, and individuals for the right to choose in pregnancy.

 romote the provision of relevant up-to-date P information to support evidence-based policy-making and to challenge anti-choice rhetoric that threatens reproductive freedom.

Promote broad national support for a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution by Dáil Éireann

Abortion Rights Campaign

The Year in a Global Context The twelve months from November 2013 to October 2014 was a turbulent time for abortion rights around the world. As some countries saw the introduction of tighter restrictions governing abortion access, pro-choice activists in other areas celebrated decriminalisation and improved conditions. One thing is clear, however: the global struggle for abortion rights must strengthen and continue. •

 ozambique passed a law decriminalising abortion up M to 12 weeks and further in limited circumstances.

 hile abortion is a criminal offense in the Philippines, W the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act was passed that included a clause which dictates that “the government shall ensure that all women needing care for post-abortion complications shall be treated and counselled in a humane, non-judgmental and compassionate manner”.

 he Dominican Republic decriminalised abortion in T certain circumstances.

 razil cracked down on abortion access. Although it B is illegal, an estimated 1 million abortions occur there each year. The tragic deaths of Jandira dos Santos Cruz and Elizangela Barbosa drew attention to the immense risks women in Brazil will take in order to terminate a pregnancy.

A documentary film about the criminalisation of women in Mexico was released called “Las Libres: The Story Continues. It follows the story of six women unjustly imprisoned for abortion in the state of Guanajuato.

In the United States, anti-abortion laws enacted at the state level have caused mass closures of clinics across the country. Violence against clinics and providers continued to increase.

 motion was put forward to ban gender selective A abortion in the UK with a motion tabled in November 2014.  ccess to abortion was widened in France, with new A legislation coming in to effect on 1st April 2014.

A doctor in Poland was dismissed for refusing to provide a woman with an abortion and failing to inform her of her rights and other options.

•  he Spanish government attempted to roll back their T abortion laws, citing the situation here in Ireland as its inspiration. Tens of thousands of people fought the proposed changes, which were ultimately abandoned. •

 hile abortion in Turkey is legal up to 10 weeks of W pregnancy, the government has ceased providing abortion services in government-funded hospitals, forcing women to pay out of pocket. Consequently, the price of a private abortion in Turkey has risen.

photo by William Hederman


Abortion Rights Campaign

Abortion Rights Campaign Membership Structure The structure of the Abortion Rights Campaign was agreed at the ARC Annual General Meeting (AGM) in October 2013. There are 26 delegates to the steering group, as follows: 4 Non-voting Convening roles (2 Co-Conveners, Treasurer and Secretary), 10 Delegates from the working groups (2 reps from each of the 5 working groups, comprised by 1 from Dublin where possible), 12 Representatives from the regional groups (2 Dublin and East; 2 from North; 2 from Northwest; 2 from Southwest; 2 Midlands; 2 Southeast).

but also retaining their own autonomous structure and identity. Partner groups can participate fully within ARC as ARC Regional Branches and may use ARC branding, logo and other resources on agreement with ARC steering group. Online video conferencing and other methods of remote participation are provided to encourage greater participation for rural delegates. Each regional group sends two representatives to the steering group who have voting rights.

The ARC structure allows for coordinated, all-Island pro-choice campaigning and activism, encouraging a decentralised and broad-reaching campaign while avoiding power hierarchies. Engagement and activity is thereby encouraged by all members. The steering group is the national forum for ongoing coordination of activity and decision-making. The steering group meets on a monthly basis and is made up of the following elements:

ARC Working Groups

The ARC structure allows for coordinated, all-Island pro-choice campaigning and activism, encouraging a decentralised and broadreaching campaign while avoiding power hierarchies. The Convening Group

The current steering group has four permanent positions that are re-elected on an annual basis (or more regularly, as required) during the ARC AGM: 2 co-convener positions, 1 secretary and 1 treasurer. Full role descriptions are developed for all positions. In keeping with the intention of non-hierarchical structure, these are non-voting positions on the ARC steering group.

The Regional Groups and Partner Groups

The ARC structure allows for development of regional branches of ARC while concurrently providing existing pro-choice regional groups the ability to work within ARC 8

ARC’s working groups are categorised into five broad areas of activity: Policy and Advocacy, Partnerships and Outreach, Administration and Funding, Media and Social Media, and Actions. Members from all interested regional and partner groups comprise each working group. Two representatives from all five working groups attend and vote at monthly steering group meetings. Full role descriptions have been developed for all representatives. The working groups manage and carry out activity relevant to their area, collaborating with other groups where appropriate, and referring to the steering group for guidance as appropriate. Rural members participate remotely via online conferencing and other communication methods. Actions: designs, develops and produces a variety of creative and direct actions such as art events and installations, readings and discussions. Administration, Funding, and Training: checks the main ARC email accounts, writes the newsletter, maintains a campaign archive, manages memberships, manages all office administration, writes and develops policy and guidelines, applies for funding grants, and completes reporting. Media and Social Media: maintains the website, blog, and ARC’s social media presence; develops posters, leaflets and postcards; and designs the ARC colour palette and style guide. Partnerships and Outreach: supports regional groups and builds grassroots support, maintains and develops relationships with national and international partner organisations, links with relevant NGOs and non-profit organisations with common goals, and represents ARC on collaborative projects.

Policy and Advocacy: researches and develops upto-date policy submissions for human rights advocacy, develops political strategy, coordinates ARC’s engagement with political representatives, writes other submissions as required, and represents ARC at national and international policy and legal events.

Procedures for voting

Without exception, each person with voting privileges is allocated one vote only; it is not possible to double vote (i.e. to be a delegate to the steering group for more than one working or regional group). Only those attending the steering group meeting (either physically or via online conference) can vote. Regional groups can avail of ARC resources and branding (on agreement with ARC), but can run their own separate initiatives and reserve the right to opt out of ARC activities, including voting at steering group meetings. Regional groups can decide how to distribute their 2 votes among their group and are responsible for vetting their members.


ARC Affiliate Groups/Members: Organisations may sign up to become group members (Affiliates) of ARC. The joining fee is tiered, depending on the group’s size and resources. Each member organisation may send one representative to, and have one vote at, the ARC AGM. Individual Members of ARC: An individual may sign up to become a member of ARC. The cost of membership is €5 per annum. The fee can be waived in appropriate financial circumstances. An individual member will receive the ARC newsletter and may participate in any working group(s) and/ or regional groups of their choice. All ARC members are invited to the ARC AGM. In order to have a vote at the AGM, a member must be actively participating in the organisation. Active participating is demonstrated by engaging in 3 ARC activities over the previous 3 months, at least one of which should be a meeting.

photo by Andrew Flood




photo by Andrew Flood


nal roups


Support to Regional Groups Dublin Open Meetings Cork Women’s Right to Choose Group Galway Pro-Choice Alliance for Choice Belfast


Regional Groups

Support to Regional Groups When a new regional group is formed, working groups around the country reach out to offer them help and support. In particular, the Admin group may be their first contact, the Partnerships and Outreach group often supports the logistics of setting up a new ARC regional group. ARC will advertise their new group to our members through our newsletter, website and social media platforms. We point members to regional groups when needed, and offer an open invitation to any of our working group or steering meetings in person or via Skype. We help with funding if they need resources for an event or if they need to attend an event outside their region. Regional groups are necessary nationwide so they can organise and campaign

on a grassroots level. In order for the 8th Amendment to be repealed, we need to speak to every voter in the country, knock on every door, and be on every street corner. This can be achieved by having local groups who will thrive with our help and support. We can offer media training, help with social media, help with stalls, and offer solidarity and support so activists can keep on campaigning. Each time a new regional group is formed, morale improves throughout the campaign. We feel an acknowledgement that our message is spreading and people in Ireland are no longer afraid to speak up for abortion rights.

Dublin Open Meetings Meetings are open to the general public on the 3rd Monday of every month in Dublin. Anyone is welcome to drop in to find out how ARC is organised, what the working groups have been up to in the past month, how to get involved in future projects, and to chat to ARC members. While the meetings are generally very informal, the latter half of the meetings often entail a group activity, workshop, or information session. For example, we may practise media interview techniques using typical questions regarding reproductive rights.


The meetings offer a chance for less involved ARC members to check in with the campaign and find out what’s happening. Active members can find ways to support other working groups. Open meetings play an important role in ARC’s visibility and accessibility to the general public and potential members. With the development of each high profile case, such as the Y case, large numbers of people take an interest in the campaign, and these meetings accommodate that surge of interest.

Regional Groups

Cork Women’s Right to Choose Group Cork Women’s Right to Choose Group (CWRCG) run regular meetings of activists in the city centre, sit on the ARC steering group, and participate in the Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment monthly in Dublin.

exercises for dealing with questions from members of the public that people might encounter when campaigning. The group explored answers and responses around the truths and myths of abortion rights in Ireland.

Two events were held in March 2014. To celebrate International Women’s day, CWRCG teamed up with Crawford Film Society to host a film screening event in the Crawford College of Art and Design. They screened the controversial documentary 50,000 Secret Journeys, commissioned by RTE in 1994 and the HBO film If These Walls Could Talk from 1996. This was followed by a Q&A and a brief summary of the current legislation relating to abortion in Ireland. The second event was a workshop entitled, Where are we now? Truths and myths about abortion in Ireland at Hotel Isaacs Cork. Here, CWRCG updated activists on the latest situation and campaigning plans of the group. Alongside this, they ran participant-led

CWRCG held regular street stalls in the city centre to discuss issues around abortion access with the public, and to invite people passing by to sign their petition. On ‘Societies Day’ in September, they met with students at University College Cork where they ran a stall and met with students who were interested in pro-choice activities. They also ran a stall at Crawford College Societies Day that month. During these September events, CWRCG advertised around Cork for the 3rd Annual March for Choice. The Cork Women’s Right to Choose Group ran a bus to Dublin and were present and proud at the march with banner on show.


Regional Groups

Galway Pro-Choice Galway Pro-Choice (GPC) is a feminist, grass-roots activist campaign group in Galway that works towards bringing in access to safe, free, legal abortion services to Ireland. They were established in September 2012 and hold regular meetings on every second Tuesday of the month to organise events and actions in order to raise awareness and initiate change in relation to reproductive rights and justice in Ireland. The organisation has done an outstanding amount of organising, hosting a number of excellent events and fundraisers during the year. Autumn 2013 events included a public meeting to discuss how austerity measures in Ireland affect access to abortion featuring Mara Clarke of Abortion Support Network, Conor McCabe of the UCD School of Justice and Maynooth University’s Dr. Sinead Kennedy of Action on X (now Action on Change). In the new year, the second annual “Never Mind the Gender Gap” table quiz helped raise funds for the campaign. In June, GPC members organised a vigil in response to discoveries made by Tuam local historian Catherine Corless in relation to the Bon Secours mother and baby home. Held in conjunction with the Justice for Tuam Babies March in Dublin, attendees laid a string of paper dolls around the children’s playground in Eyre Square. A letter by John Rodgers, a survivor of the home, was read aloud, followed by a speech from a GPC member and a poetry reading. Local band Queen Elvis provided music. The event was covered by the television channel TG4 and by local media such as the Galway Independent and Galway Advertiser. Summer events continued with a screening of the film “Obvious Child” and their Annual General Meeting in July 2014. However, an emergency meeting was called in August to address the media coverage of Ms. Y. Demonstrations against the treatment of Ms. Y featured street theatre representing women imprisoned by the 8th Amendment


being policed and controlled by the Irish state. A large crowd of people gathered to join in on the stunt with a spontaneous march down Shop Street to the Spanish Arch and back. The action was covered by social, local and national media, and was featured on the RTE Six One News Report. Galway had major representation at the third annual March for Choice in September, arriving by the busload along with supporters from NUIG Choice Society. In October 2014, GPC also attended and supported Amnesty International’s launch of their campaign, “My Body, My Rights” at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Later that month, a carefully planned day of events memorialising Savita Halappanavar were held in Eyre’s Square. In the afternoon, a marquee was set up where the people of Galway could express their thoughts and condolences to Savita’s family and friends with cards and flowers provided by GPC. The evening event included a moment of silence followed by speeches and a fiddle lament. The actions were featured on the twitter feeds of the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), ARC, Education for Choice, Speaking of IMELDA, and were covered by TG4. Collaborating with NUIG Choice Society, GPC hosted the Irish premiere screening of Vessel, a movie highlighting the journey of Women on Waves/Web’s fight for legal, safe abortions and reproductive rights for women. The screening was held at NUIG’s Colm OhEocha Theatre with over 50 attendees. Vessel temporary tattoos were distributed and light refreshments were served prior to the screening. After the screening, Clare Daly and representatives from Choice Society and Galway Pro Choice addressed the audience. The screening and discussion provided an opportunity for further dialogue on issues of choice and lack of full reproductive rights for women in Ireland and helped promote awareness of Women on Web.


Regional Groups

Alliance for Choice Belfast Alliance for Choice is an organisation that campaigns for the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. Its members are women and men who reflect the diverse population of Northern Ireland and who want to see equality and self-determination for women. They emerged in 1996 from the Women’s Right to Choose Group. Since then, they have worked to increase awareness of the restrictive nature of abortion law, campaigned for legislative change at Westminster with the Amendment to the Human Fertilization and Embryology Act in 2008, submitted evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on the Bill of Rights in Northern Ireland. In collaboration with the Family Planning Association (NI) and the Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform, they compiled evidence to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to instigate an inquiry into the UK’s provision for abortion in Northern Ireland under the Optional Protocol Inquiry Procedure, added to CEDAW in 2000.


Members of Alliance for Choice sit on the advisory group of the Family Planning Association NI and work with Trade Unions to advocate for legislative and cultural change on access to abortion services for women in Northern Ireland. They publicly campaign for the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act through engaging in media debates, responding to articles and letters in newspapers, and through a Facebook page with 762 members (Alliance for Choice Belfast). They host seminars on abortion law in Northern Ireland to inform the public about developments in policy, such as the Guidance on the Termination of Pregnancy in Northern Ireland (issued by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in 2009) and the recent Department of Justice consultation on termination of pregnancies in lethal foetal abnormality and sexual crimes in 2014.. Images from Comedy for Choice


W 18


inter ARC Submission to Irish Constitutional Convention We Wished You a Merry Christmas C Case Carols Choicemas Party Women’s X-mas/Launch of Repeal the 8th Petition Communications Training ‘Abortion: Values, Perspectives and Realities’ Workshop Abortion stigma-busting from the @Ireland Twitter account Actions of Solidarity with the Spanish Pro-Choice Movement Solidarity visit to the Basque Country Acquisition of ARC Office



ARC Submission to the Irish Constitutional Convention Members of ARC’s Policy and Advocacy group researched, drafted and submitted a document in November 2013 calling for the repeal of the 8th Amendment to the Irish Convention on the Constitution, a group of civil society members assembled by the government of Ireland to examine and suggest areas of constitutional reform. The report, available in full on the Abortion Rights Campaign

website, outlined five principle reasons for repealing the 8th Amendment. As ARC’s first real policy submission, this document set the stage for what was an exciting year of policy drafting to come.

We Wished You a Merry Christmas ARC spread the Christmas cheer by sending holiday cards out to organisations and individuals who’ve helped us over the years. It was important to us to show our appreciation and to create a feeling of camaraderie with people and organisations working for Free Safe Legal abortion access in Ireland. We received a great reaction to the card, with some recipients such as Richard Boyd Barrett, TD sharing the image of our Christmas cards on social media.

C Case Carols

Merry Christmas

Carols were sung in front of the GPO on the anniversary of the C Case in December 2013. The lyrics of traditional carols were replaced with words along the theme of the “C Case” and “Repeal the 8th”. Since most people know the tunes of well-known carols, anyone could join in on the spot. Attendees were asked to wear red coats and festive hats. The carols were used in a light-hearted way to remind people of the C Case and that the campaign to repeal the 8th needs ongoing support and exposure. While we invited the general public online, it was easy for passersby to stop and sing with us without any commitment necessary. Photos of carollers were used by the Social Media team to highlight the event and its significance.

Anyone could join in on the spot 20


Choicemas Party Sometimes you have to let your hair down and spread the joy of the holiday season! In December, we did just that with a fabulous “Choicemas Party” on 6th December 2013 in the Twisted Pepper on Abbey Street, Dublin. The place was kitted out in festive decorations, DJs spun some rockin’ tunes throughout the evening, and delicious food provided by the Veg Out food collective was enjoyed by all, especially the ARC cupcakes! We danced the night away, toasted to the year’s hard work, and celebrated our successes. .



Women’s X-mas/Launch of Repeal the 8th Petition For our first action of the year, we publicised ARC’s first official petition to repeal the 8th Amendment by launching it on “Women’s Christmas”, 6th January. On this day in Ireland, women can put their feet up and have a nice meal as thanks for their hard work cooking and cleaning for their families over Christmas. The aim of our photoshoot, which featured several women lounging on couches, drinking tea with the tag line, “This Women’s Christmas, we’re taking a break. Give us the gift of human rights. Sign our petition. Repeal the 8th Amendment.” The Admin and Media/

Social Media groups collaborated on the project to book a photographer, hire a room, gather props and costumes, and complete the final design. The image targeted a male audience, pointing out men’s important role in calling for the 8th Amendment to be repealed. It also integrated a pro-choice philosophy with a popular Irish tradition, Women’s Christmas, which we hope had a stigma busting effect. The image was shared by over 150 people on facebook and was republished on with an overwhelmingly positive response.

Communications Training Members of the Abortion Rights Campaign, Cork Women’s Right to Choose Group, Galway Pro-Choice, and Alliance for Choice Belfast participated in Catholics for Choice Communications Training facilitated by Jon O’Brien with assistance from Ann Furedi, CEO of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). The training, specifically organised for ARC activists, took place in January 2014 and featured workshops, talks, and exercises designed to help pro-choice activists engage confidently and express clearly their position to the media across various platforms. The facilitators created a safe space for ARC and the other regional groups to practice and prepare for media engagement. The intense, two-day workshop empowered activists to speak with confidence in support of abortion rights in the media, to gain experience speaking in public, and to reflect on the language used to discuss abortion. Members prepared for a press conference, had discussions, made short PSA-style videos, and conducted mock interviews. Participants received practical advice 22

from seasoned advocates for abortion rights. The materials created for the training have been used frequently to help spokespeople develop their own responses to ongoing current events. ARC is very grateful to Catholics for Choice and BPAS for this opportunity.


“Abortion: Values, Perspectives and Realities” Workshop Catholics for Choice also hosted a workshop in January attended by representatives from a range of Irish NonGovernmental Organisations and other professionals to discuss the various perspectives and reasons why people

are pro-choice. This interesting and educational session gave all in attendance food for thought and an appreciation for why the struggle for reproductive rights is so important.

Abortion Stigma-busting from the @Ireland Twitter Account Each week, Ireland’s twitter account, @Ireland, is curated by a different person selected by WorldIrish. ARC member Janet Each week, Ireland’s twitter account, @Ireland, with over 28,000 followers, is curated by a different person selected by WorldIrish. ARC member Janet O’Sullivan took the opportunity to use the @Ireland account to share her abortion story. Over the course of an hour, she tweeted her experiences while members of the ARC media group provided online support from the ARC social

media accounts. The series of tweets, picked up by news sources such as BBC News,, and Al Jazeera resulted in follow-up radio, television, and newspaper interviews with national and international outlets. Janet’s courageous use of social media helped bust the stigma around abortion and gave voice to a common story of someone choosing not to become a parent, rather than the extreme cases so often featured in the media.



Actions of Solidarity with the Spanish Pro-Choice Movement In response to the Popular Party’s plans to roll back the 2010 socialist led liberalisation of the abortion law in Spain, ARC’s Partnerships and Outreach group wrote a letter of support and solidarity with Spanish activists which we translated into Basque, Catalan, and Castilian. The Media/ Social Media group created a blog post with the translated letter and photo on the ARC website, which was emailed to choice activists across Spain. The Actions group also held a demonstration outside the Spanish Embassy on the 8th February 2014 to coincide with feminist demonstrations across Spain and Europe. Through these actions, we were able to build links with pro-choice groups across Spain and Europe and to add to international pressure against the proposed roll-back of abortion rights. The roll-back was


abandoned by the Popular Party in September 2014 due to a sustained campaign in Spain and all over Europe. ARC has received huge support from the Spanish community in Ireland since our demonstration and letter.

ARC has received huge support from the Spanish community in Ireland since our demonstration and letter


Solidarity Visit to the Basque Country In the run up to International Women’s Day, Aoife Cooke a representative from ARC visited Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital city of the Basque country, to engage in solidarity actions responding to threats to Spain’s abortion accessibility. She met with Maider Dominguez, a member of The Women’s Assembly (known as ‘Arabako Emakumeen Asanblada’ in Basque and ‘Asamblea de Mujeres de Araba’ in Spanish). Dominguez opened her weekly radio show at Hela Bedi activist radio station, Femmes, by reading, in both Spanish and Basque, the solidarity letter sent by ARC to Spanish activists the previous month. The rest of the hour-long show included a wide-ranging interview about ARC and the context of reproduction rights in Ireland. Maider and Aoife explored ARC’s campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment, the significance of the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar, and why solidarity work is so important to motivate activists, learn from our commonalities, and understand abortion rights as part of the wider project for the full liberation of women around the world.

On Saturday 8th March, Aoife joined the Asamblea and many other women’s groups converging on the main square of the city for an International Women’s Day demonstration. The follow-on activities were at the Sukubo centre, an organising space for men and women which aims to be free of patriarchal behaviours and compulsory heterosexuality. The day was marked by a festive women’s lunch attended by more than 100 women seated at long tables. Aoife presented and read ARC’s solidarity letter, with others reading the Spanish and Basque versions, to applause and cheers. The Asamblea have been working hard to resist proposed legislation from the conservative Popular Party or Partido Popular since they drafted a bill to roll back progress on abortion rights introduced by the socialist government four years ago. The Basque activists welcomed ARC with enthusiasm, and were particularly grateful that ARC had made the effort to recognise the specific situation of the Basque women by translating the solidarity letter into the Basque language.

Acquisition of ARC Office The campaign moved into an office on Wellington Quay in February 2014, thanks to the efforts of several members, particularly the convening group, over several months. Office furniture and equipment was installed and organised including a filing cabinet, whiteboards, tables, chairs, laptop, phones etc. Several invaluable storage shelves were

mounted. Items were packed into storage boxes and filing cabinets, labelling where everything should be kept. The office was also used to organise for the Workers’ Beer Company gigs, the annual March for Choice, and other events. It was fantastic to finally have a centrally-located office where we could hold meetings and other events.

We quickly set up the space to be user-friendly and organised




photo by Andrew Flood


in the Public Eye


ARC in the Public Eye

On the front end, press releases, television and radio interviews, public debates, speeches, and panel discussions are handled by trained spokespeople. 28

ARC in the Public Eye Over the past year, the Abortion Rights Campaign has focused on creating a dynamic presence through several media outlets. Our goal is to educate, engage, learn, build solidarity, and bust stigma, and thereby strengthen the Irish and international pro-choice community. While media work is the public face of ARC, it often entails many hours of hidden work to prepare. On the front end, press releases, television and radio interviews, public debates, speeches, and panel discussions are handled by trained spokespeople. Members of the actions working group diligently hold informational street stalls on a regular basis to talk with the public about why Ireland should have free, safe, and legal abortion access. Behind the scenes, ARC reaches out to the public through our website (, Facebook page, Twitter account, Google + profile, and bi-weekly email newsletter. We are continuously trying to court content creators for the website’s blog, keeping the site updated with upcoming events and meetings, relevant news items, and promotion of other pro-choice groups. Breaking news must be constantly monitored so we can keep our followers up-to-date on the most important developments in reproductive rights. Articles and images are shared with framing remarks through social media, and then must be checked constantly to remove anti-choice comments and images. These daily tasks require consistent attention. However, the work has paid off, with Facebook followers having reached 10,000 and rising. Twitter provides an excellent outlet for live reporting from events put on by ARC and other groups, or during radio or television coverage of issues relating to bodily autonomy, which includes debates in the Dáil, reports from United Nations conventions, or other international events. Hashtags can be created and tweets or images can be re-tweeted by ARC followers. If a hashtag begins to trend, momentum can be created that often results in an impressive worldwide reach. Taking part and hosting twitter conversations gives us the opportunity to educate the public about ARC’s aims and the motivation driving them. Though, like all social media, the twitter account must be monitored for abusive and harassing users. Currently, the ARC twitter account (@freesafelegal) has over 3,650 followers.

Urlabhraí Gaeilge don Feachtas um Chearta Ginmhillte Bíonn muid ag baint úsáid as preasráiteas i mBéarla chun a chinntiú go bhfuil an teachtaireacht céanna á chur amach ag lucht na Béarla, ansin an t-aistriúcháin a dhéanamh i nGaeilge muid fhéin. Bhí Claire Brophy ina urlabhraí gaeilge don bhFeachtas um Chearta Ginnmhilte. Bíonn muid ar fáil ar an nguthán agus go pearsanta do stáisiúin raidió agus teilifíse chun dul ar an nuacht nó ar chláir, nuair atá gaeilgeoir ag lorg duine i bhfábhar rogha, agus ar son an bhFeachtas um Chearta Ginmhillte. Tá muid anseo chun a chinntiú go mbeadh urlabhraí i bhfábhar rogha ag labhairt amach ar son an bhFeachtas um Chearta Ginmhillte i nGaeilge, chun na Gaeilgeoirí sa tír a choimead ar an t-eolas faoi céard atá ag tarlú in ár dtuairim. @freesafelegal 29

S 30


pring Presentation to EU parliament in Brussels Too Loud a Silence Screening and Panel Discussion Event for International Women’s Day 8 myths / 8 days events International Women’s Day “Putting our ovaries on your Rosaries” for Lady & Trans Fest Anarchist book fair Question your candidate campaign SRHR Join the winning team Standup for Choice Belfast



Presentation to EU parliament in Brussels In March, ARC was invited to Brussels for the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) hearing on abortion access. We were given the opportunity to speak on the situation in Ireland. Presenting to the parliament allowed us to share information on the situation in Ireland with our European allies and to meet and grow relationships with other reproductive rights activists from across Europe. Siobhán Clancy and Katie Gillum presented on the criminalisation and restriction of abortion in Ireland North and South. The speech gave some historical and political context and an overview of the current situation describing the negative impact of these restrictions for people living in Ireland.

This was ARC’s first presentation to an international forum of such prestige


This visit was undertaken to highlight the violation of rights and the perpetuation of injustice in the area of reproductive health and abortion on the island of Ireland. It was also intended as a gesture of solidarity with other countries in which abortion services are being threatened or restricted in some way. This was ARC’s first presentation to an international forum of such prestige, and the Policy and Advocacy group put in impressive work preparing the statement. It set the stage for an exciting year of international engagement ahead.


Too Loud a Silence Screening and Panel Discussion Event for International Women’s Day Co-producer and director of 50,000 Secret Journeys Hilary Dully introduced the evening’s programme with a brief insight into how the subject of abortion has been framed, at times problematically, in the twenty years since she produced 50,000 Journeys in 1994. Following the screening, the podcast of an interview with Janet O’Sullivan was played, describing her experience tweeting her abortion story whilst posting from the Ireland Twitter account. The guests then participated in a panel discussion facilitated by Katie Gillum. Participants included Hilary Dully (researcher and film maker), Anne Rossiter (abortion seeker, activist and performer featured in 50,000 Journeys), Colette Browne (journalist) and Dani Wrafter (abortion seeker who told her story previously on an RTÉ programme).

This action aimed to challenge the stigma and silence that has surrounded abortion and the telling of abortion stories over decades. The live event provided an opportunity to support Dani and Anne to share their experiences without any editors mediating the content for the audience. The social media initiative aimed to shatter myths about abortion and confront stigma. Hearing Anne and Dani’s stories in an uncensored environment empowered audience members to listen and to discuss in an empathetic way the subjective experiences of abortion seekers. It was also inspiring to see how media, such as film, can be used very effectively to challenge the dominant discourse. This event officially launched ‘8 Days - 8 Myths - 8 Reasons to Repeal the 8th: A Social Media Campaign for International Women’s Day’ on 8th March 2014.

Too Loud a Silence Abortion and Censorship in Irish Media An International Women’s Day Screening and



8 myths / 8 days events To mark International Women’s Day, ARC researched common myths and truths about abortion in Ireland. Our graphic design team cleverly constructed the myths into beautiful info-graphics which were then rolled out by our Media/Social Media team as a national social media campaign over eight days, from 1st to 8th March,

surrounding International Women’s Day. The aim was to dispel common myths about abortion in Ireland and to spread fact-based information to the general public. This was a great example of cross-group collaboration in ARC which resulted in a very visible, informative, and easily shared campaign.

Numerous large-scale studies have shown that the majority of women do not regret having chosen abortion. A 2010 study of women in Ireland showed that 87% of women who had an abortion said it was the right outcome for them.

Abortions cause or increase the risk of suicide, depression, regret, or “post-abortion syndrome”.

In fact, risk of suicide during pregnancy is far lower in countries with greater access to legal abortion and less punitive attitudes towards abortion

87% Repeal the 8th

myth truth 1

08/07/2014 20:35

People in Ireland want access to abortion, at least in the cases of risk to life (89%), risk to health (78%), fatal fetal abnormality (83%) and rape and abuse (81%) At least 150,000 women have travelled for abortion in 30 years. They’ve voted with their feet. People are signing petitions, making signs, singing songs, writing plays, changing things because they want abortion. This is a Catholic Country so it’s anti-abortion 34

myth truth 2

Being Catholic does not mean you are against abortion.


risk to life

78% risk to health


fatal fetal abnormality


rape and abuse

Repeal the 8th 08/07/2014 20:35


International Women’s Day Members of the Abortion Rights Campaign participated in two activities to commemorate International Women’s Day (8th of March). ARC spokespeople gave speeches at the National Women’s Council of Ireland ‘Soapbox’ which ran at the Central Bank on Dame Street, Dublin. An ARC street stall was set up during the event, resulting in a large number of signatures being added to the Repeal the 8th Petition. Later, a rally was hosted by the group for Reproductive rights against Oppression, Sexism & Austerity (ROSA) and ARC was delighted to provide a speaker at this. These events helped ARC build ties with other pro-choice organisations and to gain support from attendees. Our participation resulted in a feature on national radio later that evening.



“Putting Our Ovaries on Your Rosaries” for Lady & Trans Fest The Lady & Trans* Fest invited ARC to organise a workshop on the 30th of March. The title, Putting Our Ovaries on Your Rosaries, was inspired by the protest slogan, “Keep your rosaries off our ovaries”. During the workshop, participants created ovaries out of wool and other materials for use as future protest props. The aim was to mimic the Spanish protest where they hung knickers off various bridges to protest the possible introduction of the new anti-abortion laws. We used this workshop as an opportunity to have

Zine Fair Members of the Actions group held a stall at a craft fair held in the Generator Hostel in Smithfield Square, Dublin. Copies of Pro-zine, ARC’s self-produced pro-choice magazine, were sold both individually and as a collection. The fair was a platform for artists to sell their work rather than a political space, but it was a good opportunity to network with others producing similar publications while distributing pro-choice artwork and stories. Since the audience wasn’t specifically pro-choice, as most other stalls were held by artists, we were able to reach a more general audience.


an informal chat about ARC and our aims and recruit new active members. All of the participants seemed pleased with their productions. Future workshops of this kind will be more inclusive for novice crocheters with some loosely structured conversation points to get people talking about abortion and/or women’s health issues. One facilitator could focus on helping people with crochet/materials while another facilitator could focus on encouraging conversation.


Anarchist Book Fair The Anarchist Bookfair is an annual event organised by the Workers’ Solidarity Movement (WSM) in Dublin featuring discussions and debate on many topics, including feminist activism. Twenty to thirty organisations and campaigns, including ARC, held stalls and information stands downstairs in Liberty Hall. We aimed to raise awareness among attendees at the Bookfair of the Abortion Rights Campaign and the need to repeal the 8th Amendment. This event attracts an audience with an interest in social justice, many of whom are open to supporting ARC or becoming members. Volunteers on the ARC stall spoke to a large number of people about the campaign and the issue of abortion in Ireland generally and got a very favourable

response. Many attendees expressed an interest in supporting the work of the Campaign, signed the petition to repeal the 8th Amendment, and signed up to become new members. People who wanted to get involved with ARC were informed of the Dublin Open Meetings. Funds were also raised by selling merchandise including t-shirts, bags and badges on the stall.

Many attendees expressed an interest in supporting the work of the Campaign, signed the petition to repeal the 8th amendment, and signed up to become new members



Question Your Candidate Campaign We wanted to make abortion a doorstep issue for candidates canvassing for the May 2014 local elections and to empower people to be ready with talking points when the knock on the door came. We created a short video sketch and an accompanying checklist that people could download and print off. The content of the video was informative, lighthearted, and short which made it easy to engage with. Subsequent videos for general elections along these same lines can be made using more updated equipment with better promotions. As abortion increasingly becomes an issue that political representatives have to grapple with, helping pro-choice constituents vocalise their views will be crucial to repealing the 8th Amendment and gaining reproductive rights in Ireland.

What to ask your candidate, as a pro-choice voter What have you done for women’s health and rights? What is your position on abortion? Do you agree that there should be a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment? What have you done on the issue of abortion access for women in Ireland? What will you do in the future on abortion access for women in Ireland? Some politicians can’t seem to answer a direct question - Often they will try to change the subject a bit or ask you questions. When this happens you can raise a few important points with them, so that they understand that abortion rights in Ireland is an important issue to you.

The legislation passed over the summer does not provide access to the vast majority of women in Ireland who want and need abortion access. Reasons why women need access to abortion include - a risk to their lives or health, rape, incest, birth control failure, personal wish, fatal foetal abnormality. These are all legitimate reasons and not things the state should be in charge of mediating. Women need abortions for a wide variety of reasons - only they can and should decide what’s right for themselves. There is no reason to invoke the slippery slope argument that providing access means women will use abortions as birth control. Women don’t stop using birth control when abortion is available. Women use contraceptives when they need contraceptives and abortion when they need abortion. Your voice matters, so thank you for standing up for women at this critical time



Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights “Join the Winning Team” The Programme for Prosperity and Fairness in Ireland (PPF), a national initiative by the Irish Government, set a number of targets to be fulfilled on the way toward achieving the agreed United Nations “Millennium Goals for Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights”. Since sexual and reproductive health rights were not recognised until 2007 (seven years after the Millennium Goals were set), the deadline was moved from 2015 to 2020. ARC’s current core goal is to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution, which would be the first step toward gaining sexual and reproductive health rights. Using the theme of the World Cup 2014, we published a blog post and image of some of our members in our “Free Safe Legal” t-shirts on a football field, representing the winning “team” of those who support abortion rights in Ireland, as

polls increasingly show more support for abortion access in Ireland. On our street stalls, people were invited to sign a football and the Repeal the 8th petition. The purpose of this action was to show solidarity with an international movement for reproductive justice using the theme of the World Cup (and in doing so reclaiming space in sports journalism for social endeavours by women). Abortion Rights Campaign drew a parallel between the need to lobby world leaders for the extension of the time period in which the agreed Millennium Development Goals for Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights can be achieved and the need to Repeal the 8th Amendment in Ireland. This provided the Actions and Media/Social Media groups an opportunity to promote our new petition online as well as in person on the street stall and show how abortion access fits into the eradication of poverty.

Standup for Choice Belfast On 9th March 2014, Alliance for Choice in Belfast organised a springtime comedy show, Stand Up for Choice: An Evening of Life Stand Up Comedy in Support of a Woman’s Right to Choose, featuring Bridget Christie, Gemma Hutton, Robin Ince, Josie Long and Mark Thomas. Members of the Abortion Rights Campaign travelled to Belfast to show

our support and solidarity with Alliance for Choice, and of course have a good time. Alliance for Choice were delighted to welcome ARC activists from the south, and it was a great night of Pro-Choice fun.


W 40


orker’s Beer Company


Worker’s Beer Company For the second year, the Abortion Rights Campaign was asked to work with the Workers Beer Company, who provide staff to bars at music festivals in the UK and Ireland. Volunteers representing various organisations undertake bar work at festivals and concerts, and then donate the monies that they would have earned to a particular cause that they support. Preparation for this undertaking cannot be understated, as it takes several months to organise, many spreadsheets, and thousands of emails and phone calls. Workers Beer Company activity falls under the Admin, Funding and Training Working Group, but in practice it has become its own separate project from working group activity, with one ARC member taking the lead project managing role. Clare Butler worked closely with representatives from the WBC and members of the general public who applied to be volunteers. It demanded significant time, effort and coordination. Over the summer, many people assisted with the administrative tasks. Using a dedicated mobile phone for WBC ARC volunteer coordinating was useful because it meant that people knew whom to contact or call back. Having the ARC office as a base was invaluable to this work. Our volunteers raised a net amount of ₏32,579.96 for the campaign in 2014. Approximately 390 people filled in an online form to register to volunteer with ARC at concerts and festivals in 2014. ARC filled volunteer slots for approximately 730 shifts over the 16 days of music concerts during June to August 2014. Organising workers for 730 separate work shifts was a serious logistical challenge. To facilitate this, team leaders were assigned at each gig. Without exception, every team leader was willing and enthusiastic about taking on their role.

Our volunteers raised a net amount of â‚Ź32,579.96 for the campaign in 2014. A great deal of our success in this venture was achieved by treating our volunteers well, keeping them informed of any changes, giving them snacks, ensuring they received lunch money, trying to speak to each one by name at some stage of the day, being at the register hut to welcome them and thank them for their time, giving them a badge, reminding them that ARC were very grateful and appreciative to them all. By far, ARC had the happiest and best looked after volunteers at the concerts! We organised a thank you party for ARC WBC volunteers at The Pav in Trinity College on Saturday, 26th July 2014.


Worker’s Beer Company


S photo by Grace Wilentz



ummer Trans 101 workshop with Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) International Summit on Reproductive Choice: Lisbon 2014 Submission to United Nations Human Rights Committee International Covenant on Civill and Political Rights #notavessel campaign March for Choice outreach Banner Drop Our Bodies, Our Rights: Rally to Repeal the 8th



Trans 101 Workshop with Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) ARC and the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) collaborated over a number of projects in the summer of 2014. With shared goals of bodily autonomy, bodily integrity and access to health care as a human right, our campaigns share common purpose and causes. TENI worked with ARC to review campaign materials and our online presence to ensure the campaign is cognisant and responsive to transgender issues. TENI also ran a Trans 101 workshop open to all ARC campaigners to educate people on trans

rights. This workshop then developed into a round table discussion initiated by ARC on the right to bodily integrity and connecting campaigns. Representatives from Re(al) Productive Health, Doctors for Choice, Choice Ireland, and ARC took part in a round table discussion that focused on shared struggles, resources that may be shared, success stories, challenges, and collaboration. We look forward to supporting one another in the coming year.

International Summit on Reproductive Choice: Lisbon 2014 The Lisbon Summit in June brought together 60 leaders in pro-choice advocacy, service provision, thought leadership, and policy development from around the world to consider how best we can build a case for reproductive autonomy against a background of attempts to restrict and devalue the concept of the right to choose worldwide. Hosted by Catholics for Choice, British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), and Portugal’s Family Planning Association (APF), every aspect of pro-choice advocacy was considered. Through a series of panels and discussions, participants tackled challenging issues head on with frank and open 46

debates led by expert presentations and panels. For ARC, attending this event offered an introduction to the international pro-choice community. The calibre, positions, and achievements of the attendees was overwhelming. The Lisbon Summit was an invaluable opportunity to strengthen and develop international partnership while making new connections. The event helped us, as activists in Ireland, to situate our struggle within a European and global political and social context. Since the Summit, we are now engaged in a number of international collaborative projects.


Submission to United Nations Human Rights Committee International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights The Abortion Rights Campaign was honoured to submit a parallel report during the spring on Ireland’s examination under the United Nations Human Rights Committee’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Two ARC members from the Policy and Advocacy group, Alison Spillane and Sinead Corcoran, presented our findings at the UNHRC hearings in Geneva on 14th July 2014. While the initial parallel report was solely ARC’s, we collaborated with other groups for the presentation in Geneva, namely the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), the Irish Family Planning Association, Doctors for Choice, National Women’s Council of Ireland, Terminations for Medical Reasons, and the Centre for Reproductive Rights. In 2014, Ireland was due to be examined by the UNHRC on how the state was complying with the ICCPR. As part of the process, the state submitted a report on its compliance which was used by the UNHRC to develop a list of questions and areas for further examination. Civil society organisations were invited to make submissions at various stages of the process. ARC drafted a submission highlighting how Ireland’s abortion laws are in violation of the ICCPR.

In July, we sent two representatives to attend the examination hearing in the UN buildings in Geneva. Charged with coordinating civil society organisations attending the hearing, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties selected ARC to present a joint statement on Ireland’s abortion laws to the UNHRC on behalf of several reproductive rightsfocused NGOs. To promote our efforts and attendance at the examination hearing, ARC spokespeople attended a day-long event hosted by the ICCL which allowed members from contributing organisations to engage with the media and maximise local coverage of the UNHRC hearings happening in Geneva. The impact of this project went far beyond what we could have ever expected. The UNHRC very strongly condemned Ireland’s abortion laws. Committee Chair Sir Nigel Rodley made the now famous ‘vessels’ statement that sparked international attention and outrage (see below). Unprecedented focus was given to the hearing and the comments in the Irish media, bringing abortion back into the headlines and up for continued debate.



#NotAVessel Campaign The #NotAVessel social media campaign was one of ARC’s biggest public relations successes of the year. When United Nations Human Rights Committee member, Sir Nigel Rodley, stated that Irish abortion law treats women as a vessel and nothing more, we asked the public to take a photo of themselves holding a sign with the phrases “I am not a vessel” or “Not a Vessel” and post it with the hashtag #NotAVessel. We shared the incoming photos


from around the world. We also asked people to tweet their posts at Francis Fitzgerald and Joan Burton. This tactic provided a quick and easy reaction to the important events happening in the UNHRC and an outlet for getting the news of Ireland’s human rights issues to a wider audience. #NotAVessel was seen 31,244 times and is still being used in protest signs and media surrounding the abortion issue in Ireland.




March for Choice Outreach In preparation for March for Choice 2014 and to build attendance, the Partnerships and Outreach group reviewed and extended the ARC contact list. Invites created by the Media/Social Media group were emailed to organisations. A week later, follow-up phone calls were made to some organisations, ideally to a particular contact person. With a view to creating stronger links with a variety of key people and organisations, we used the invitation emails to let people know that we would be contacting organisations in the future regarding ARC membership. As this was a first step of the building the official membership, we felt that the invites worked better when we had a contact person. For future marches, we aim to repeat this process, but to start several weeks in advance so we can have more opportunity to do the time-consuming work of building relationships with key people.

Banner Drop One morning in August, a group of activists that included members of ARC hung banners from the Ha’penny and Rosie Hackett bridges advertising to commuters an upcoming demonstration in response to the Ms Y news story. One prominent banner read, “Abortion Rights Now�. The banner drops also aimed to build momentum for the annual March for Choice in September. Future banner drops will be featured in online/social media coverage for better promotion of the event.


The invitations were primarily to build attendance for the March for Choice 2014


Our Bodies, Our Rights: Rally to Repeal the 8th Organised jointly by the Abortion Rights Campaign, Choice Ireland, Rally For Choice Ireland, Reproductive rights, against Oppression, Sexism and Austerity (ROSA), Re(al) Productive Health, AIMS Ireland, and Actions for Choice, two complementary protests were organised to demonstrate against the horrendous treatment of a pregnant young asylum-seeker, known as Ms Y, who was suicidal and was refused a lawful abortion under the new Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. After the story broke in the media, a first series of demonstrations were held on Wednesday 20th August, capturing people’s anger and the impetus for change. Concurrent rallies were held across Ireland in Dublin, Belfast, Galway, Cork, Limerick, Derry and further afield, such as at the Irish consulate in Auckland, New Zealand; and at the Irish Embassies in London, Berlin and Warsaw. For those unavailable on weeknights, a second rally was held in Dublin on Saturday 23rd August at 2pm, starting at the Spire. Born of palpable distress, frustration and anger over this young woman’s situation, both events were greeted with a flurry of support, media attention and attendees also engaged with our #notavessel campaign. photo by Andrew Flood



Born of palpable distress, frustration and anger over this young woman’s situation, both events were greeted with a flurry of support.

all photos by Andrew Flood


C 54


March for hoice 2014


March for Choice On Saturday, 27th September, the Abortion Rights Campaign hosted the third Annual March for Choice in Dublin to mark the International Day for Decriminalisation of Abortion. The march highlights the issues of bodily autonomy, reproductive rights, and the campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment. A celebration of being pro-choice, the March illustrates support for the issues in numbers, both physically on the street and online. This annual event strengthens ties with external groups and individuals while promoting ARC’s public profile. As such, we received fantastic publicity and positive responses from the public with an increase in new ARC members and people signing our Repeal the 8th petition. By far, the Annual March for Choice in Dublin is our biggest event of the year. Months of preparation go into creating a well publicised, organised, safe, and enjoyable experience for everyone involved. We chose the theme of “speak with your feet” to mobilise the as-yet unmobilised but sympathetic person between 20-45 or so. Once the concept and tone were set for 2014 March for Choice, the graphic design team produced the many marketing materials needed such as posters, flyers, t-shirts, web ads, print ads, and social media banners and images. This year, we were very pleased to produce a line of merchandise that

included shopping bags, “free safe legal” t-shirts and mugs, and stickers. To promote the march and to encourage people to ask their friends and family to join them, the media group created a campaign called “Are you coming to the march?” A callout was tweeted for submissions while the ARC website featured a range of personal blog pieces sharing past experiences of attending the March for Choice. These posts aimed to motivate pro-choice supporters who had never participated in a pro-choice march into attending. In the run up to the march, each day’s fresh content provided a range of different people sharing their positive experiences of marching. Cross-posting throughout all our social media outlets ensured that our message reached a large audience. Additionally, we chose to invest in paid advertising for the march to reach a wider demographic than our social networks alone. After careful research of our various options and negotiating rates, we purchased advertising space in Gay Community News (GCN), the Dublin Gazette, Village, and Rabble for a combined print reach of over 70k people. People arrived from all over Ireland at the Garden of Remembrance to hear an introduction from ARC member Aoife Cooke, and speeches from Alice Mary Higgins

photo by Grace Wilentz


March for Choice (National Women’s Council of Ireland), and Tracey Osment (Unite the Union). The march route led down O’Connell Street, over the new Rosie Hackett Bridge, past the Department of Health, and finished outside the Daíl on Kildare Street. Estimates of attendance from the Irish Times came in at five thousand people. To conclude the demonstration, the crowd heard speeches from Cathie Doherty (ARC); Amel Yacef (Akidwa); Dr. Mark Murphy (Doctors for Choice); Laura Harmon (Union of Students in Ireland) and Clare Daly, TD. The public had been asked to bring wheelie suitcases to drag alongside them, signifying the 12 women who travel from Ireland for abortions each day. The suitcases made a strong visual and audio impact as the wheels rolled along the road. Our 2014 post-march programme of events was by far the most elaborate one yet. The afternoon was intended to provide a gathering point for people who had attended the march and wanted to engage further in a range of cultural activities around the topic of abortion rights. It was also

intended as a supplement to the march for people who may not find marches appealing but do enjoy meeting, talking with, listening to and/or being creative with like-minded people. The programme was a celebration of our solidarity and a statement of the positive potential of continued advocacy in social, cultural and political spheres. We also hoped to support and inspire future events on the subject. Held at Filmbase in Temple Bar, guests could avail of a “baggage drop” for their wheelie suitcases, then move onto the “check-in desk” where they could register and sign the petition. A “departures” sign listed common destinations for people travelling for abortions from Ireland. Actors dressed as customs officials patrolled the venue while attendees popped into the “baggage scanner” print workshop to make prints on a card in the shape of a suitcase. Each person

The Annual March for Choice in Dublin is our biggest event of the year

photo by Andrew Flood

57 57

photo by William Hederman


Our 2014 post-march programme of events was by far the most elaborate one yet

produced two prints: one to display in our gallery (made to look like a luggage belt), and one as a souvenir. A selection of photo backdrops were available featuring several types of vessels that people could stand in front of holding a sign that read “#NotAVessel”. The resulting photos were shared through social media. The programme included a speakout session organised by Rosie Leonard, Heather Browning and Kerry Guinan which allowed people to share their experiences with abortion amongst a supportive and nurturing environment. A carefully curated film screening programme was presented and an archive of material related to reproductive justice was displayed, along with an exhibition of art work to which many artist submitted work. Dance artist Deirdre Murphy performed a piece entitled, “Vitamin C”. Re(al)Productive Health founders Aoife Frances and Fiona Dunkin organised delicious catering and booked DJ Beep Beep (Christine McQuillan) and a band, Thang, to perform for the after party. The speakout and exhibition space was converted into a dance floor when the main programme concluded, and we celebrated our hard work with music and socialising. The diverse and stimulating programme created through a feminist ethic was appreciated by everyone who attended.

photo by Grace Wilentz


A 60


utumn Launch & Workshop of Women Help Women Shadow Report to the Third Periodic Report of Ireland under the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights Conference (FIAPAC) in Slovenia Repeal the 8th Conference FIAPAC in Slovenia Flashback Afternoon Self-care Weekend with Seeds for Change Group



Launch & Workshop of Women Help Women September 28th marked the launch of a new initiative in international reproductive rights activism, Women Helping Women (WHW,, who aim to bridge the gap between activism and service provision. By fusing practical support with advocacy work and relationship building, WHW provides access to the abortion pill, the morning after pill and other forms of contraception. They believe in giving women access to the knowledge and medical resources they require to make and control their own reproductive health choices. Organisations like WHW ensure that people who choose to self-induce an abortion can buy safe pills from a trusted site and receive online medical support and counselling throughout the process. Women Helping Women also partner with activists, NGOs, and individuals around the globe to facilitate relationship building, solidarity and support amongst groups. The Abortion Rights Campaign is proud to work with Women Helping Women and their global partners to educate, inform and inspire! As proud partners of Women Helping Women, ARC looks forward to working further with them in the future.

Shadow Report to the Third Periodic Report of Ireland Under the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights With a second invitation to present an international policy and advocacy submission in 2014, the Abortion Rights Campaign established itself as a leading authority on reproductive rights in Ireland. In 2015, the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights is due to examine Ireland on how the state is complying with the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). By then, the state will have submitted a report on its compliance which will be used by the Committee to develop a list of questions and areas for further examination. In October 2014, ARC drafted a parallel report highlighting


how Ireland’s abortion laws are in violation of the ICESCR. We will be submitting again at a later stage of the process and also potentially attending the examination in June 2015. This type of submission is important to highlight how Ireland’s abortion law is in violation of international human rights law. Hopefully it will generate as much attention as our ICCPR submission and will result in recommendations of decriminalisation of abortion, provision of access to abortion, and the repeal of the 8th Amendment to the Irish state.


Repeal the 8th Conference A working group from the Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment, whose membership includes ARC, Action for Choice, ROSA, and NWCI, held a one-day conference on Saturday 6th September 2014 in the Gresham Hotel on O’Connell St. The idea was to build a broad-based coalition of people and groups to work together to repeal the 8th Amendment. Roughly 200-250 people attended from all over the activist, human rights, and NGO scenes. Four panel discussions comprised of four speakers were presented. To close the day, approximately 15 groups gave three minute presentations on the issues discussed, facilitating the sharing of a variety of perspectives on the issue (i.e. legal, human rights, the experiences of women, maternity issues as well as abortion, separation of church and state etc). The conference staged a very positive, high-energy, collaborative atmosphere with a diverse audience. ARC, and

especially our upcoming March for Choice, was prominently visible during the event. We displayed ARC posters around the room and spoke twice with a ten minute introduction to the March and an introduction to ARC and our work. ARC attendees were fortunate to meet and make links with women and organisations we may work with in the future, either within the coalition or directly as ARC. Since the conference, the Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment was created, and holds monthly meetings attended by ARC representatives. These meeting are extremely valuable for ARC’s relationships with other nongovernmental organisations and activist groups. We are part of a women’s movement which can only be successful if we work together. The repeal of the 8th Amendment is a key focus for ARC, and this coalition of disparate groups has one core aim to benefit women in Ireland.

FIAPAC in Slovenia A representative from the Abortion Rights Campaign, Cathie Doherty, joined provider and advocate groups from all over the world at September’s International Federation of Professional Abortion and Contraception Associates Conference (FIAPAC) in Slovenia, including a pre-conference session hosted by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). Entitled “Task-Sharing in Abortion Care”, lectures at the conference featured stories of global struggle for free, safe, and legal abortion access. ARC was able to meet and engage with potential supporters and collaborators while raising the awareness of the current situation in Ireland.

The conference proved to be incredibly interesting and inspiring. ARC submitted a resolution to FIAPAC supported by BPAS (resolution text: Due to the importance and intensity of the FIAPAC conference, ARC hopes to send more than one delegate in the future.

Lectures at the conference featured stories of global struggle for free, safe, and legal abortion access.



Flashback Afternoon In collaboration with the Women to Blame Exhibition and Create, the national development agency for collaborative arts, the Flashback afternoon in November 2014 was intended to offer information to people unfamiliar with the events depicted, either because they were too young or not born at that time, didn’t live in Ireland, or were not aware of the events because of the bias and censorship of the subject matter in the media and everyday conversation. The activities were explicitly devised for a target audience of people under 40 and migrants who comprise a significant percentage of ARC supporters. We were also keen to offer a fresh and fun format for discussion to people whose experience of these issues might have been limited to news stories, political rallies or academic events. Members dressed in vintage clothing offered historical background for each decade depicted in the exhibition. Participants were invited to make their own souvenirs with the assistance of our ‘retro facilitators’ after the tours. Each


souvenir was constructed from printed artifacts from the decades on show. Our usual ARC stall was given an 80s twist, with live performances of the song ‘The Well Woman Clinic’ at regular intervals and an 80s inspired DJ set. For people who weren’t eligible to vote in 1983, we provided a ballot card box on the stall to cast the vote they would have wanted. The Petition to Repeal the 8th Amendment was also available for supporters to sign. The afternoon offered ARC the opportunity to work alongside the organisers of the exhibition and meet people who had been involved in activism in the past. We felt satisfied to have created an engaging format for future events of this kind. Plans to develop this event into a travelling exhibition are underway, and we would be delighted if the activities we developed could be replicated by others to engage more people.


Self-care Weekend with Seeds for Change Group With the view of ensuring that the Abortion Rights Campaign remains sustainable and its members feel supported, a two-day self-care workshop for activists was organised with Seeds for Change, “a network of non-profit training and support co-operatives which help people organise for action and positive social change” ( Using questionnaires completed in advance by ARC members, Seeds for Change put together a programme dealing with the following issues: •

Self-care, burn-out and sustainable campaigning

Appreciation of self and others

What makes it hard to be in this group?

Addressing and avoiding burn out

Communications and conflict

Understanding and dealing with conflict

Looking at ARC’s communication culture

The workshop aimed to look at how we communicate and treat ourselves, fellow ARC members, and other activists outside ARC. The feedback was very positive and members felt empowered – both for themselves personally and as a group. Many ideas and issues arose over the weekend that would have been hard to express, develop or consider if we did not create this space. Ideas from the weekend were translated into a plan to develop a communication and self-care strategy. ARC will also will host five social low-keys events for pro-choice people to hang out together throughout the year.

The workshop aimed to look at how we communicate and treat ourselves, fellow ARC members, and other activists outside ARC.


M photo by Andrew Flood



anaging Relationships With Our Members, Supporters, and Allies


Managing Relationships Like every organisation, ARC has members who keep the day-to-day operations ticking over. Generally, the Admin and Fundraising group coordinate such tasks. These include interfacing with our members and the general public, supporting other working groups and their events, and data management. The ARC newsletter, sent fortnightly, is designed to provide our campaign members, followers and advocates, with regular updates on how the Abortion Rights Campaign in Ireland is progressing, as well as a round-up of recent events in the news. It features contributions from each working and regional group. The person responsible for compiling content for the newsletter links in with other pro-choice and reproductive and human rights based organisations to see if there are any items that they would like included in our newsletter (e.g. Doctors for Choice, the Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment, National Women’s Council of Ireland, Transgender Equality Network Ireland, Speaking of Imelda, ROSA, Terminations for Medical Reasons and the Abortion Support Network). Callouts for submissions are placed on our internal online forum. The coordinator, who was Siobhan Borgo for 2013-14, then edits the content and organises the information under the following general headings: Upcoming once-off ARC events Recent once-off ARC events or “actions” Items of interest, such as articles, links to ARC blog posts, etc. Regularly occurring events, such as Dublin Open Meetings and Street Stalls Events past and future for Regional and Other Groups The newsletter also includes an introduction and links to donate and sign the Petition to Repeal the 8th Amendment on the ARC website. It is collectively edited and proofread, then formatted and issued via Mailchimp to our mailing list. Our supporters and campaign members enjoy receiving the letter. We consistently issued a newsletter on a fortnightly basis from April 2013 through to September 2014. Currently, ARC is recruiting volunteer coordinators for the newsletter in order for it to remain sustainable in the future.

The newsletter is collectively edited and proofread, then formatted and issued via Mailchimp to our mailing list. 68

Another behind-the-scenes task is checking the ARC email account on a daily basis. Simple queries are responded to straight away, while more complicated queries are acknowledged with a holding reply. Further information may be sought from other working groups or individuals in the campaign. Many of the e-mails that come into the main account need to be forwarded to a specific regional or working group, either via the online forum or in a private message. Checking the email on a regular basis helps the campaign to maintain and strengthen our relationships with supporters, campaign members and outside groups. We pride ourselves on keeping these interactions positive and professional. The task has been taken on primarily by one dedicated individual, Anneka Hickey, who generously donated her time. However, going forward we plan to introduce a rota system in order to better distribute the workload. Maintaining up-to-date information allows us to communicate with our supporters and campaign members in an effective and timely manner. All data is held securely, centrally, and not shared with outside parties. The Admin group is responsible for maintaining the details of our contacts. They also issue membership cards and welcome letters to new members. ARC recently acquired a new database system earlier in the year which will add some additional functionality and customisation to our contact list. A campaign supporter is someone who has elected to receive updates from ARC, while a campaign member is someone who has signed up for membership or who is actively involved in our working and/or regional groups. We also have organisational members with whom the Partnerships and Outreach group maintains relationships. To facilitate the process, they created a Partnerships and Outreach (P&O) toolkit. This document is a handbook for members of the P&O working group that sets out the group’s principles and objectives of the group as well as procedures and guidelines for undertaking activities on its behalf. The toolkit ensures a consistent and coherent approach to planning and implementing P&O activities. Defining the terms of reference and working methods of the working group has facilitated the induction of new members. It will also allow knowledge acquired by the group to be captured and made available to the wider campaign. The toolkit is a very useful introduction to ARC and the aims and objectives of P&O for new and existing members. The use of this document, used in conjunction with the new database, ensures that P&O members are on message, consistent, and coherent in their engagement with allies and the public as they forge important relationships, both nationally and internationally.





urer’s eports


Monthly Accounts During this period, many excellent accounting processes were developed and implemented across the campaign. Eilis Murphy, the treasurer of ARC in 2013-14, worked tirelessly to ensure suitable systems were established and followed by all. Each month, a record is kept of income and expenditure along with petty cash spending. A bank reconciliation must be completed each month to make certain we are working off the right bank balance. Accounts were uploaded each month on the ARC online forum to ensure that accounts are in keeping with statutory requirements. Accounts are widely available to ARC members as a Libre Office document which is free to download, ensuring transparency. A newly adopted accounting system has proved more reliable. We are currently transferring the accounts onto an online accounting system. Application to Standards in Public Office (SIPO) ARC has registered with SIPO which requires us to submit annual accounts listing any political income or expenditure. The Treasurer and Convener itemised each listing, explaining where/how we received/spent the money in order to comply with SIPO regulations. Funding Requests To improve systems, a funding thread was set up on the ARC online forum where members of working groups can post funding requests in advance of spending using these headings: Funding Requested for: Date needed: Total Requested: Breakdown of proposed purchases and costs:

ARC now has one clear method of requesting money and one record of requests accessible to all. The funding thread has been successful because over time people have got into the swing of going directly to the thread instead of texting/emailing/etc the treasurer when they need money. The treasurer is able to work more efficiently, while ensuring a fair and transparent process. Grant and Funding Applications Members of the actions group, co-conveners, and the treasurer collaborated in researching and filing grant and/ or funding applications in 2014, linking in with the funding providers. Grant and funding application opportunities were brought to the attention of the steering group for approval. As funding for the campaign is limited, grants are needed to secure revenue streams for various ARC projects. We were not successful with any applications during this period. As only a few people in the campaign have experience of completing grant and/or funding applications, it was decided at the November 2014 AGM to start a sub-working group of Admin, Funding & Training dedicated to writing funding proposals. Expanding the numbers involved in this important area of the campaign gives people who have an interest in a particular project a chance to become involved in securing funds while also providing an opportunity for others to up-skill in this area.



nnu   M


ual General   Meeting 2014


Annual General Meeting 2014 The second Abortion Rights Campaign Annual General Meeting took place on 15 November 2014 in Dublin. After welcomes and introductions, the membership structure was reviewed and the agenda was set, each working group (Actions; Admin, Funding, and Training; Media & Social Media; Partnership & Outreach; and Policy & Advocacy) gave short presentations on their highlights of the past year. Next, the regional groups were invited to give a summary of their work. A facilitator, Caroline Gardner, from the not-for-profit organisation Quality Matters led a discussion around ARC’s goals and strategies for the upcoming year. Using interactive and involved group tasks, she encouraged members to set goals that would stretch us while being realistic and attainable. Once the exercise was complete, the meeting broke off into working groups to look at the necessary tasks for the next three to four months to help us realise the above goals. A motion, which originated from the self-care workshop earlier in the month, to make some changes to the role of the working group steering group representatives was passed by the overwhelming majority. Elections were then held for the four convening group roles. Cathie Doherty


Using interactive and involved group tasks, she encouraged members to set goals that would stretch us while being realistic and attainable. and Sinead Corcoran were elected Co-Conveners. Doreen Kirker and Áine Treanor were elected Co-Treasurers. Siobhan Borgo was elected Secretary. Congratulations were given to those elected and a massive thank you to the outgoing Convening Group for all their hard work over the last year. As many were unsure if they could commit to a full year, it was agreed that the above elected convening group will remain in place for the next six months, at which point we hope to hold an “All Ireland” meeting, where new elections can take place. Finally, the meeting heard the Treasurer’s financial report for the year. The Abortion Rights Campaign brought in €54,314.38, approximately €32,000 of which was from our Workers Beer Company volunteers. The rest was from membership dues, events, funding applications, donations and the sale of merchandise. Expenditure was €43,972.38. There was a positive balance of €48,547.16 in October 2014.



cknowledge ments

We would like to thank all members of the Abortion Rights Campaign and our core affiliate groups, Alliance for Choice Belfast, Galway Pro-Choice and Cork Women’s Right to Choose Group, for giving up their time and making the effort to pull together this record of our work. This is definitely the less glamorous side of activism and campaigning, and with so many urgent events and activities to occupy us it is a wonder we ever remember to write anything down. Abortion Rights Campaign activists are inspiring, energetic and enthusiastic women and men driven by passion and a strong ethic. Thank you also to our many collaborators and partners in Ireland and abroad who we are lucky to work with. A special thank you to those who believed in us enough to volunteer as fundraisers, give donations and to the organisations which have given us funding.. This 2014 Annual Report aims to be a record of our learning over the year and will help us develop as a thoughtful campaign which continually evaluates our work and our strategy. It gives us space to see all the amazing events, actions and activities we have completed, the relationships we have built and the messages we have communicated. It also acknowledges the quiet, less public work which keeps the Abortion Rights Campaign ticking along in ways that are sustainable, accountable and transparent. We hope this Annual Report can also be used as a tool, a ‘how-to’ guide for new activists and campaigners. Most importantly, it allows us as grassroots activists to write our own history and chart social progress for women in Ireland as it happens. Project Coordination: Aoife Cooke Editing: Angela Coraccio Proofreading: Clare Butler Design and Layout: Caoimhe Doyle and Linda Kavanagh Co-Conveners: Grainne Griffin and Katie Gillum. Treasurer: Eilis Murphy Secretary: Siobhan Borgo

Submissions of content were made by active members of the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC), past and present. Photographs were by donation from ARC members and allies. 75

Abortion Rights Campaign 2014 Annual Report  
Abortion Rights Campaign 2014 Annual Report  

In 2014, our activists broke new ground and forged new spaces for choice and stigma busting. In a trail of purple, yellow, and green, we add...