/  Activism   /  Repeal the 8th: The Triumph of Women’s Right to Choose in Ireland

Repeal the 8th: The Triumph of Women’s Right to Choose in Ireland

Ireland was reborn in the 1980s and 90s as an economic dynamo. Long languishing on the periphery of Europe, Ireland has since become a nerve center of science, technology, and entrepreneurship. Yet, in many ways, the country remains behind. The state still clings to many laws that enforce horrific moral prescriptions.

In 1983, the Constitution of Ireland was amended to expressly outlaw abortions in almost any instance. The text of the amendment reads:

“The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right”.

This amendment was brought about in part by a still-overbearing Catholic Church, which wielded great power over the political establishment. The moral precepts of Catholicism have had a way of becoming law, at the expense of individual liberty.

The effect of the 8th Amendment has been decades of suffering on the part of Irish women denied access to safe abortions. Those who can afford to, will often travel to the United Kingdom, where abortion is legal. The result has been a government that criminalizes a woman’s fundamental right of choice over her own bodily autonomy. It has caused misery, suffering, and even death for women across the country. It is an outrage that has to end.

When the 8th Amendment passed in 1983, it did so with 67 percent of the popular vote. Yet, Ireland has come a long way socially since the 1980s, a time when even divorce was illegal. The 8th Amendment, in many ways, represents the last desperate gasp of the moralizing social policies of an era in which the state placed its own perception of public morals above the rights of the citizen.

Thankfully, that day looks soon to be coming to an end. The Catholic Church has been discredited in numerous scandals of late, and the other moralizers and scolds have found a less receptive public for their poisonous rhetoric. Now, numerous political parties, advocacy groups, and ad hoc organizations have been gaining steam in 2016 to force a new referendum, one that would undo the 8th Amendment once and for all.

The new vigor in the fight owes much to a private social enterprise, the Repeal Project.

In a genuine social entrepreneurial undertaking, the Repeal Project has used cutting-edge branding and marketing to create a clothing market dedicated to the repeal of the 8th Amendment. Orchestrated by founder Anna Cosgrave, the simple logo “REPEAL” is blazoned on a range of apparel, which has helped to create an unprecedented level of brand control and has helped to unify many otherwise disparate strains in the efforts to bring abortion rights to Ireland.

Imagery can unite a movement, and there can be little doubt that Cosgrave’s efforts have helped provide a change-making imagery in a single word. “One word on a jumper speaks very loudly to those who have themselves made that journey, and been temporarily exiled from the country they call Home”, explains Cosgrave, “For a jumper to make someone feel less criminal and more accepted, so much so that they feel safe to come forward with their story, is undeniably powerful”.

Through a lean social enterprise, the effort to repeal has been bolstered in the public consciousness. A cursory examination of Facebook profiles of Irish people will show just how powerful this simple apparel has become. It is a testament to what creativity and entrepreneurial drive can do to aid in the advancement of a much bigger movement.

Any libertarian should recognize the crucial character of bodily autonomy as a vital part of their ideology. Yet, the Irish state has consistently denied Irish women that very right, revoking choice and making a crime of something that should be every woman’s natural right. The very idea of a state exercising such control over any citizen is grotesque insult to the liberty we all hold so dear.

As libertarians we should stand together with the Repeal activists. You could even do the capitalist thing, and buy a t-shirt. Libertarianism holds at its core the notion that human beings by their very nature possess certain inalienable rights, including to their lives and bodies.

Momentum is on the side of freedom today. Let’s stand up for our principles and help raise our voices in support of Repeal.

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John Engle

John Engle is a merchant banker and author living in the Chicago area. His company, Almington Capital, invests in both early-stage venture capital and in public equities. His writing has been featured in a number of academic journals, as well as the blogs of the Heartland Institute, Grassroot Institute, and Tenth Amendment Center. A graduate of Trinity College Dublin, Ireland and the University of Oxford, John’s first book, Trinity Student Pranks: A History of Mischief and Mayhem, was published in September 2013.

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