Hundreds of activists took to the streets of Cork city at the weekend to take part in a pro-choice protest calling for a repeal of the eight amendment.
The march was attended by upwards of 800 people, who urged the Government to withdraw what they said was an “archaic” piece of legislation.
While organisers were expecting a large turnout, especially in the aftermath of a widely reported on case in recent days where a young woman was sectioned under the Mental Health Act after seeking an abortion, even they were surprised that the numbers swelled to almost a thousand.
The march, which started on Grand Parade, brought traffic to a standstill as it made its way down South Mall, onto Parnell Place, and onwards to Merchant’s Quay and St Patrick’s Street before finishing up at Grand Parade once more.
For more than two hours, hundreds of people, largely women, marched and protested at the top of their lungs, shouting slogans such as ‘Separate church and state, women must decide their fate’ and, of course, the now-familiar chant of ‘Keep your rosaries off our ovaries’.
Siobhan O’ Mahoney from Blackrock said she was really glad about the turnout. "We need to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century and allow women to have free choice over what they do with their own bodies as opposed to putting in legislation that blocks that," she said.
Vera Stojanovic from Cork City said she thought it was ridiculous that it has taken this long for the issue to move forward.
"The fact that abortions are illegal, it doesn’t stop abortions from happening, it just makes people come up with different ways to get them. It’s unfair. I think it’s a breach on women’s rights."
Mary Cleary from Ballincollig said that for her, it’s about the right to choose.
"We all have our moral opinions about the issue, but at the end of the day women are getting abortions and their health is being put at risk because they’re going abroad for them and they don’t have proper aftercare. So it doesn’t really matter what people should be doing – this is the situation and we need to take care of people’s health, regardless of people’s moral judgement."
"In this case, health is more important than morality. I think that is what the Government’s stance should be. I don’t think this should be a referendum issue. I think there will be a really ugly pro-life campaign and that will be very damaging for people. I think some things should be for the courts to decide," she said.
City councillor Fiona Ryan, from the Solidarity party, said the huge crowd was testament to the fact that there is a massive desire for change in Irish society, particularly among women was testament to the fact that there is a massive desire for change in Irish society, particularly among women.
The march also attracted a number of pro-life demonstrators, though notably fewer than have attended similar events in the city in previous months.
While the pro-choice crowd march at almost 1,000, there were fewer than 20 pro-life activists.
Despite their small numbers, this faction made their presence known, parading large signs with slogans such as ‘Abortion is murder’ and showing graphic, large-scale images of aborted foetuses.