Repeal The Eighth: Vote Yes

“I implore you to vote yes”.

As UCC’s Student Union continues it’s campus wide referendum to allow students the opportunity to decide whether or not UCC will support the repeal the 8th campaign, Kelly Doherty voices her opinion on the situation, and urges every student to use their vote.

Today and yesterday, UCC students are voting on whether or not to mandate the SU to campaign to Repeal the Eighth, the part in Ireland’s constitution that says the life of a foetus is equally important as the life of a woman. What this amendment results in is the banning of:

1) abortions for women who may die during childbirth/due to the pregnancy
2) abortions for victims of rape
3) abortions for women seriously struggling with mental health/suicidal thoughts
4) abortion in any situation; regardless of whether it’s abortion for underage people, abortion on demand etc etc.

I am pro-choice. I believe that we should not live in a country where every time a woman has sex with a man, she risks her life being irrevocably changed and in limiting a women’s autonomy in any manner.

However, any feelings on abortion on demand or whether it’s justified is ENTIRELY irrelevant to this campus wide referendum. Despite constant misinformation, this is a referendum on whether our Union should work on repealing the 8th amendment and pushing for a loosening of the terms in our constitution which allow women to die due to childbirth and force the victims of sexual assault to have to bear a child by their attacker. Campaigning to repeal the 8th allows us to meaningfully engage in protecting the most vulnerable in our society and allow them to not be let down due to prevailing narratives around abortion that forgets those vulnerable women and opts to focus on extreme opinions from either side. It is extremely unlikely to result in abortion on demand due to the prevailing views in our population but repealing the 8th can result in real concessions for the people who need it the most.

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By voting no, we say that we don’t care about those people and we are not willing to enter into discussion on how our state can best help and facilitate them, we are blocking our SU from representing us in campaigns and national debate around what we would like to replace the exceptionally archaic, unfair restrictions of the 8th amendment. We are NOT, despite the misinformation of the no side, voting yes or no to abortion on demand. We are voting for a campaign for reason and a constitution that does not ignore the complexities around the issue. Voting no is closing the door yet again on an issue that has plagued this country with controversy on a domestic and international level and has hurt so many people and will continue to do so until a change is made.

For those reasons, on the debate about Repealing the 8th, I implore you to vote yes.

Weirdly, this referendum has also faced major opposition from a different group of people, those who don’t believe the SU should be representing the student body with a pro Repeal the 8th stance because it isn’t representative etc etc. Tbh, I’m heartbroken by the idea that we have to campaign on campus for students to vote that the SU supports something that would help victims of sexual assault and many students in our population due to ideological opposition about blocking choice, however as our SU has opted to not automatically work on protecting those students, it’s an opposition that needs to be discussed.

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Firstly, students who keep saying that it wouldn’t be representative of the student population so they’re voting no, even if they’re pro repeal the 8th. I want to know where your opposition was to the Marriage Equality campaign by our SU? Abortion on demand may be a controversial issue, but the simple act of repealing the 8th is not. In 2014 polls by the Independent, 60% say that abortion should be allowed where there is the threat of the mother’s suicide; 69% in the case when a woman has become pregnant as a result of rape; 72% where there is a medical risk to the mother’s life other than suicide; and 68% where there is a threat to a woman’s long-term health. Those figures are only higher among student populations and are certainly not representative of a college where this is campaigned on by the SU being a university ruled by some liberal student politics minority. However, we did not panic about those who were anti marriage equality when we campaigned on those issues because it seemed less controversial. Repealing the 8th is only controversial on a major level because of misinformation.

Furthermore, if you are pro repealing the 8th but you are having a protest vote of some sort, I implore you to not use an issue that actively hurts and destroys the lives of women to be your battering ram for change in student politics. Write articles, run campaigns, run for SU, do whatever, please don’t lessen national ability to campaign for these people. Because by undermining UCC’s ability to engage in this campaign, you drastically lessen the ability of USI to campaign effectively and as we saw in MarriageEquality, the student vote is extremely vital as a youthful draw into the campaign. Be sceptical of student politics, call officers out on their mistakes but just don’t let the failings of it hurt the meaningful things it can actually do.

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I can’t stress how important it is to me that we vote yes in this referendum. For the amounts of women in our student body that don’t have a voice and whose issues are ignored by politicians and organisations who don’t view them as an important group of voters, vote yes. Student politics is the one place where we are still allowed be idealistic, where we can push for causes and get real momentum for issues because they matter and because we want to help people, not for political favour or popularity.

Live the spirit of student politics and fight for the protection of the most vulnerable in our country.

Vote Yes.

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