by Amy Clarkin
They said that they would target ‘Obstreperous Young Women’ so we claimed it like the title of a Queen.
They called us witches and we embraced a legacy of powerful women and outsiders that were branded with the same name.
They called us murderers, spat at us, threatened us,
We did not back down.
They told us that we needed to be quiet, not to ask for ‘too much’.
We would not be silenced.
In the midst of a choking atmosphere of fear there was hope in solidarity. When cruel, distressing images targeted hospitals and schools a multicoloured rainbow rose to shield them, a silent statement by its bearers:
‘You cannot do this.’
Secrets, some held close for decades, spilled from lips, in the hope that maybe this trauma would help people to understand the effect of the 8th amendment on our country.
Brave people placed hearts, still raw and broken, on display to help future generations avoid the same suffering.
We will never be able to repay them.
The anxiety was palpable – what would it mean if it didn’t pass? What would it say about how this country views women? Were we just incubators, vessels, our worth determined by our reproductive capabilities?
And yet, among the misogyny, the cruel words and judgement, the threats and silent glares of disapproval, there were beacons of hope. Jumpers with ‘Repeal’ defiantly emblazoned across the front. A badge pinned carefully to a lapel. The nod and knowing smile of solidarity as you passed each other in the street.
Footpaths were worn with the steps of canvassers. Doorbells echoed across the country as patient, dedicated people had difficult conversations with strangers and loved ones alike. There were tear filled ‘thank you’s and quiet promises of ‘I’m with you’. People, men and women, young and old, of faith and without, both rural and urban based, flocked to a banner that had been erected thirty-five years ago and not put down since.
Across the globe allies sprang into action, leaping on planes and marching onto boats, a reversal of the journey made by so many before us in search of healthcare.
No more unspoken plane trips. No more hiding us away. No more banishment. No more illegal medications taken alone and scared in quiet corners. No more ‘I’m sorry, but my hands are tied’ from doctors as women die in front of them.
No more shame.
“No more unspoken plane trips. No more hiding us away. No more banishment. No more illegal medications taken alone and scared in quiet corners.”
We called for kindness. We asked for compassion. The cases were no longer faceless, but became your mother, your sister, your girlfriend, your wife. We debated, constantly reminding people that these were real lives at stake, real people that had already been victims of a cruel law. We wept behind closed doors before returning to the streets to explain – calmly and politely so as not to be branded ‘shrill’ – why we deserved our human rights. To emphasise that pro-choice did not necessarily mean pro-abortion, just that you respected everyone’s right to make their own decisions in difficult times.
Many of us cast our votes in schools with statues of the Virgin Mary watching us, religious iconography reminding us of a societal stranglehold we were trying to escape from.
And then we waited, hands clasped and hearts hopeful.
We watched, first in shock and then with elation, as a landslide of empathy and kindness engulfed our country. Tears streamed down faces as the confirmations from each constituency flowed in on waves of change. The echoing crack of the chains of an archaic doctrine breaking rang out, loud and clear across the land.
It still hasn’t fully sunk in – some of us feel overwhelming relief while others are drained and shell-shocked after a long and harrowing campaign. We cannot yet fully see the impact that this will have on us as a country. Where once we silently turned our backs and averted our gaze, where there were only whispers in hushed voices of trips overseas, where women were forced into Mother and Baby homes to atone for their ‘transgressions’, where tragedies could have been avoided if only, if only . . . now we say ‘No More’.
Now, crises will not be illuminated by flames of shame and guilt. Now, a hand of understanding and empathy will be extended. Now, we are free to choose.
We as a nation have spoken, and we have chosen trust and choice. The ripples of this declaration are only just beginning to spread. So much pain has been drawn to the surface that it will take time before the wounds begin to heal and scars start to fade. The cloak of shame and stigma has finally begun to lift, but we still have a long way to go. We know that. We are tired, but we will rest and regroup.
We will not forget the past; we will not allow it to be swept under the carpet and hidden away as so many people were for so long. We will remember, we will mourn, but now we can begin to look towards a brighter future, a future that we have overwhelmingly called for. Now, it is judgement that will be confined to the outskirts while beams of hope illuminate the faces that, finally, can step out of the shadows.
We asked for support and our country reached out and said ‘We hear you,’ an affirmation of solidarity expressed by a single ‘X’ in a box.
It is incredible how so simple an action can represent so much to so many.
Now, as we turn our faces towards the first rays of sunlight that rise over the new Ireland, it is hard not to feel a surge of pride.
Where once we were shackled together by shame, now we are united by hope.
Amy Clarkin | @amyclarkin
Amy is a 27-year-old writer and film reviewer from Dublin. She can generally be found drinking coffee and reading, writing or watching stories.