Ireland: Anarchists on the abortion referendum

With the referendum on whether to repeal the Irish constitution’s 8th Amendment taking place tomorrow, Freedom is reproducing this piece by Irish anarchist organisation the WSM explaining their position — and eight reasons why they will be voting Yes.

WSM members are Voting YES to Repeal because;

  1. The decision on whether to continue a pregnancy is one for the pregnant person to make. It is not a decision of the gang of busybodies that were & are against marriage equality, contraception, sex education, divorce and access to secular education.
  2. There are people for whom travel to access abortion in Britain isn’t an option or hasn’t been in the past because of migration status, abusive relationships and poverty.
  3. Pregnant people have to illegally take abortion pills in Ireland. In doing so they face the fear that the pills will be intercepted in the post, alongside the fear of prosecution which could result in a 14 year jail sentence.
  4. The referendum is also about what sort of Ireland we want.  The No campaign wants to return us to an Ireland of the past where a woman’s place was the home providing reproductive labour.  Nothing was to interfere with this hence the bans on divorce, contraception, working while married etc.
  5. No one should have to suffer while they are waiting for their child to die inside them, not knowing if he or she is in pain or if that movement was normal or the last throes of death. (Testimony from a FFA parent who travelled).
  6. Few of us were old enough to vote in 1983. Now we finally get to vote to get rid of something that has made life so much harder for so many of the women in our lives, including delaying or denying medical care to pregnant people.
  7. The anti-choice groups are a gang of bullies who associate with the far right. They came after us with injunctions in the 1980s for distributing information and hurleys in 1992 for speaking out for choice.  We’ve watched them threaten, lie and assault people across four decades.
  8. The so-called moral position for ‘pro-lifers’ is hypocrisy. They are using this struggle to force women to remain pregnant, regardless of their circumstances. These people have no interest in life. They don’t support the people in crisis pregnancy. They only offer judgement, shame and oppression.

Our activity for Repeal

Repeal has been our major activity since March with every member of WSM involved at some level.  We took the decision to direct almost all of this involvement through Together for Yes (T4Y) so you won’t have seen WSM printed material, e.g. posters, and we are not doing our own public meetings, and so forth.  All that sort of work and help with organising tasks is instead being done as volunteers with Together for Yes, a range of work from organising local groups to packing merch in HQ to leafletting and canvassing, you’ll find some reports from this work towards the end.

We have built up a huge online reach with 100,000 followers across our various social media platforms. We have been using this to amplify T4Y messaging. It has also allowed us to say the things that T4Y as a broad campaign might have difficulty expressing, for example explaining that the referendum comes from an anti-establishment revolt that forced the politicians into calling it.

Our online campaign started on March 7th, the eve of International Womens’ Day and between then and May 9th our tweets appeared 1.7 million times on people’s feeds. We probably added at least twice that, through retweeting, to T4Y reach as well as other campaign groups including Termination For Medical Reasons, Amnesty, MERJ etc.

Our top Tweet was sent on March 20th, reaching 60,000, it warned about the dark ad campaigns that were coming and provided examples later used by journalists from The Times, C4 News and other publications in their coverage leading to the decision by Facebook & Google to ban online referendum advertising.

The 2nd most popular Tweet was from March 11th where we proved that only 9,000 people had taken part in the ‘Rally 4 Life’ and not the 100,000 claimed by organisers. This was important in establishing early on that claims from the No camp needed to be investigated rather than reported as fact, as much of the media were doing.

Both our facebook pages have been busy posting unique content written by our members about the referendum, some of which is now archived on our website. We’ve also been providing photography and video coverage, with video we have shot appearing in several Yes campaign related videos including this great version of Phil Och’s When I’m Gone by Shift Work. You can read a selection of those articles below.

How we got a referendum

Poll analysis

Questions of the referendum campaign

Looking at the No campaigns

Dark ads & other dirty tricks

Lessons from elsewhere

Some activity reports from our members


WSM was founded in 1984 by people who had campaigned against the 8th amendment. The group has been involved in pro-choice struggles ever since.