On Monday the 6th of March, the ‘Repeal Bus’ will arrive to UCD at 8:30am to provide direct information and contraceptives to students in need of safe abortion pills. The venture is organised by ROSA Ireland (Reproductive rights, against Oppression, Sexism, and Austerity) is in response to what they say is ‘a radical abortion ban’. The UCD Students’ Union who initially supported the bus coming onto campus has now withdrawn their support.
ROSA is part of the increasingly growing campaign for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. The Eighth Amendment acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and puts it in equal standing to the life of the mother. It is currently under consideration by the Citizens’ Assembly. The expected outcome of the Citizens’ Assembly is to call for a referendum, as it is necessary for constitutional amendments. The wording of a potential referendum has been a point of contention and would likely bear impact on the outcome. The Citizens’ Assembly will deliver its recommendations to the Oireachtas for consideration in June, but the campaigning from both sides has already begun.
Speaking to the College Tribune, a spokesperson for ROSA said they ‘plan to provide direct assistance to those in need of safe abortion pills’. The pills in question are obtained through a global website called www.womenonweb.org. Women on Web are ‘a digital community of organisations, individuals and women who have had abortions that support abortion rights’. They supply abortion pills which are for use in the early term of pregnancy, and are effective up to the 12th week of pregnancy. To obtain these pills the woman must answer 25 multiple choice questions and they can then get the pills posted. However, these pills cannot pass Irish customs and so are shipped to Northern Ireland. ROSA then help in getting the abortion pills to you with the aid of women’s rights activists in the North.
Undergoing any medical procedure without medical supervision is ill-advised and while Women on Web ask about a variety of diseases in their short questionnaire it lacks the same scrutiny or accuracy of a comprehensive medical examination. They state you should not be alone when consuming the pills and should be within 60 minutes of the hospital. Those who have criticised the organisation have said these guidelines are not of much consolation if the miscarriage presents unexpected side effects – such as an allergic reaction to the pills.
How do the pills work?
The woman takes one tablet of Mifepristone followed by eight tablets of Misoprostol, two at a time with intervals of four hours. These tablets bring on contractions and cause a miscarriage. The spokesperson for ROSA made it firmly clear that if anything were to go wrong then you should go to the hospital but to tell the doctor that the miscarriage came about naturally and to not tell your doctor under any circumstances that you underwent a self-enacted abortion – despite no woman ever being persecuted for having an abortion within the State so far.
Denying that the ‘Bus 4 Repeal’ is a publicity stunt, ROSA insisted that it is ‘a political action to decriminalise abortion’. Upon queries of any follow up support offered by ROSA, the spokesperson could not offer any binding details. In terms of any physical complications ROSA direct you to email email@example.com where they said fully qualified doctors are readily available to reply. However Women on Web refer to themselves as a ‘digital community of women who have had abortions and individuals and organisations that support abortion rights’ and do not claim to have a support service of a team fully qualified doctors. The ROSA spokesperson stated that there is no need for any psychiatric help or counselling following an abortion. She claimed that ‘counselling is not needed according to studies’ and that early term ‘abortion is not a mental ordeal’.
Ed Brophy, current head of research group ‘Ireland Thinks’ and former chief of staff to Tánaiste Joan Burton, says radical campaigning runs the risks alienating the middle ground, whose support can often be the deciding in referenda and elections. Brophy said, ‘the big thing you have to do is not pander to the extremes. Yes, you should point out the cruelties that are currently visited upon women, but to do that you need to turn down the volume if you want to run a campaign that has a better chance of winning’.
UCD for Choice
UCD For Choice, while wary of the use of such medication, spoke with the College Tribune and said that ‘UCD for Choice acknowledges the highly restrictive nature of the 8th amendment and feels that this campaign measure accurately reflects the lack of compassion that the 8th amendment and the government has for those looking to procure a safe and legal abortion’.
The Students’ Union recently had a lively discussion on whether or not to support the ‘Repeal Bus’ and as a result voted to pull their support for the bus , while continuing to highlight their support for a pro-choice stance on abortion. The SU say they are concerned about the medical supervision of the process and the fact that the bus does not offer follow up support to women who have undergone abortions. The Students’ Union Welfare Officer, Roisin O’Mara feels that ‘it is not an equitable solution to a major problem in our society’.
The ROSA spokesperson firmly concluded that ‘we won’t be silenced by Enda Kenny or the government. The state won’t get in our way’.
Seamus McAuliffe | Politics Writer