The London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign has launched an airport ‘check-in at Christmas’ campaign, with the hashtag #choice4xmas. The newly formed group, the UK-based branch of the Irish movement to make abortion free, safe and legal, has launched a mass social media ‘check-in’ for Irish expats going home for Christmas. Their aim is everyone traveling to Ireland for the holiday can support for women traveling in the other direction, by ‘checking in’ on social media at ferry and airports and using the hashtag #choice4xmas.
An average of 11 women travel from Northern Ireland and the Republic to Great Britain every day to access safe abortion. A further 600,000 people from Ireland (both north and south) live in England. Christmas sees huge waves of Irish expats returning to a place that denies them a legal right that most the country wants to challenge. A 2016 poll showed that 87 percent of people in Ireland said they wanted expanded access to abortion.
In May 2015 Irish emigrants showed their massive power using the #hometovote during the Marriage Equality referendum campaign. Irish citizens traveled from as far afield as Canada, Australia and Africa to cast their ballot. In 24 hours there were over 72,000 posts to social media using the hashtag #hometovote and the voters came home in their hundreds of thousands.
It’s possible that the new #choice4xmas could also go viral.
Although Ireland and Great Britain are less than an hour’s flight apart women, both north and south of the Irish border, are denied the same rights as their British counterparts.
The London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign hopes to challenge the governments of both regions to not only bear witness to the homecoming, but recognize the thousands of women they force to travel the other way; often alone, facing stigma, and knowing that legally their lives and personal choices are not valued.
“Christmas is such a happy time for me. I miss my family, I miss the country. Arriving at the terminal and hearing the accents, everyone is laughing and joking and I already feel like I’m home,” said Siobhan Fenton, spokesperson for London-Irish ARC.
“But knowing that, if I was pregnant, I would be afraid to go back is a really tough thing to even think about. What if something went wrong? Would I be able to get out quickly enough? My life doesn’t seem to matter to my own community, and the law backs that up.”
Sarah travelled to London from Ireland for an abortion some years ago. She now lives in England and says she is “heartened” by the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign.
“I remember the stress over the cost and the need to travel by myself, as I felt I had nobody to turn to,” she said. “If I had been able to discuss all my options with my GP who had the freedom to talk openly with me, maybe I wouldn’t have felt the decision to be so black and white.
“London-Irish ARC is asking the governments on the island of Ireland to face facts and put aside the moral quandary they are in. We all need to realize the situation is far from right and wrong – it is about supporting Irish and Northern Irish women in making these difficult decisions.”
The campaign is also being launched in recognition that Ireland’s abortion laws - both north and south - are making international headlines. This year, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that in the case of fatal fetal abnormality, Ireland’s constitution subjected women to cruel, inhumane treatment and discriminated against them on the basis of their gender. A High Court judge ruled current abortion laws in Northern Ireland were in breach of women’s human rights. Despite these rulings - Irish and UK law makers have failed to bring about the change needed.
The #choice4xmas campaign has been running from Dec 16.
The campaign asks ex-pats to check-in on social media at airports and ferry ports, with the suggested text "Travelling home to Ireland & thinking of the 11 women a day who travel to Britain for an abortion #choice4xmas #repealthe8th #Extend1967Act". Those who aren’t travelling can share and like our content to show their support.
Earlier this year as part of the #Repealthe8th Global Gathering, 77 women marched to the Irish Embassy in London to represent these exiled women. Here’s the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign video: