One year since Repealing the Eighth: the fight we won and the ones we have yet to 4 months ago

One year since Repealing the Eighth: the fight we won and the ones we have yet to

A lot can happen in a year.

On May 25, Ireland voted in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment.

The country decided that the law that made abortion illegal, criminalised women, and stripped us of our autonomy wasn't for them. Ireland had changed since the 1980s. The amendment was cruel and inhumane. It was time to get rid of it.

Since then, women in Ireland have had more control of our bodies than, well, ever.

This time last year, the country breathed a collective sigh of relief as it was confirmed that the Irish public, the majority of them, trusted women.

January 1 marked the first day that abortion services were legal for every woman across the country, irrespective of her health or economic status, how she had gotten pregnant, or her reason for wanting an abortion.

2,153,613 X's in boxes and suddenly, it didn't matter anymore. If you were less than 12 weeks pregnant, it was your choice. That's it.

But then came the times when it did matter. The complications. The apparent confusions around a law that was still so new, the attempts to implement conscientious objection, and the straight up ignorant insensitivity of those deciding to try and picket the health centres offering abortion pills to patients.

one year since repeal

On January 3, warnings were issued as a pro-life agency set up a rogue 'abortion support website' to entrap women seeking terminations in Ireland.

A few days later, reports that the details of the country's "first legal abortion" had been leaked began circulating, leading to Minister for Health Simon Harris publicly condemning the "attempt to drag us back to pre-Repeal place."

After that, there was the woman carrying a baby with fatal foetal abnormality who was denied an abortion at a Dublin hospital, the woman who had a "15 percent chance of delivery" who was told to go abroad for a termination, and all of the others who we weren't told about in the press, online, or in the Dáil.

After all of this, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that Ireland's abortion law would need time to "develop" and "evolve."

He argued that the services may not be "up to scratch" for some patients, but that over time this issue would resolve and improve to the point where pregnant women looking for help will no longer need to have their stories told in the Dáil during Leaders' Questions.

Until then though, most of us can rest easy in the knowledge that if we experience an unwanted pregnancy, we've got options. We fought the fight for our own bodies - and we won.

Women in Northern Ireland, however, are still fighting that fight.

Alongside the thousands campaigning for legal abortion in Ireland last year were the countless women from NI by our side. And when it was all over, they crossed the border back into a country where an archaic law still makes it illegal for a woman who has been raped to terminate her attacker's child.

A 2018 study showed that the vast majority of people in the UK want Northern Ireland's abortion laws to change.

The poll, commissioned by Amnesty International, showed that 65 percent of people in Northern Ireland are in favour of decriminalising abortion in the North, with 78 percent of the rest of the UK agreeing that abortion shouldn't be a crime.

80 percent of people living in Northern Ireland said that a woman should be able to make her own decision about a pregnancy when her health is at risk, with 73 percent agreeing that abortion should be an option in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

The North is next, but when will that be?

The small (tiny, minuscule, even) saving grace here is that we can only move forward. We have to. Stagnancy is not an option for those in this fight, and thankfully, neither is moving backwards.

The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for the US where the passing of multiple new laws will make it increasingly difficult for many women to access abortion services next year.

Where there was once legal abortion for all women across all States, there will soon be countless obstacles making it painfully hard and even impossible for thousands to access terminations.

Legislators in Alabama recently passed a law that makes abortion illegal in all circumstances except where there is a substantial risk to the life of the mother. So, essentially, the same law that women in Ireland had been fighting to remove for decades.

Under the new legislation, women will not be held liable for getting abortions, but doctors who perform the procedure could go to prison.

The move is so severe, so Draconian, so absolutely backwards that it has even been met with criticism from President Trump himself, who declared that even though he is pro-life, he still believes that those who have been raped, or are victims of incest, should be permitted to choose.

States that will introduce similar, slightly less severe laws, are Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio. Come 2020, abortion will be illegal after six weeks gestation - a time before many women even find out that they're pregnant.

A lot can happen in a year.

And yet not all of it has been worth celebrating.