Time for Our Referendum

The following is the text of a letter written by a number of regular HRinI contributors and signed by over 100 academics, which was published in the Irish Times today (full list of signators only available online). Here we have added a number of additional signatures received after the letter went to press. Others who wish to express their desire for a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution should sign the petition organised by the Abortion Rights Campaign here

Dear Editor,

We are people in or from Ireland. We are under the age of 50. We could not vote in the 1983 abortion referendum which profoundly limited women’s autonomy. No subsequent referendum has provided an opportunity to undo that damage. Many of us have lived our whole lives under an abortion regime in which we have had no say. As a generation we have grown up knowing that the State would compel us to travel if we wished to exercise substantive control over our reproductive lives.

We never allowed ourselves to think, at least since Miss X, that we lived under a regime willing in principle to marshal its power against a distressed young woman to compel her to carry her pregnancy to viability. We have never been given the democratic opportunity to expand the circumstances in which an abortion can be sought in Ireland. We have repeatedly asked for this chance, but the State failed to listen. The law punishes women in our name, but never bore our mark.  We are disappointed and concerned by the latest news, but we know that disappointment and concern are not enough. It is time that this generation had its referendum. That referendum must transform the law on access to abortion care.

Women in and from Ireland are entitled to autonomy, to bodily integrity, to be free from unjustified detention, to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment. Women in and from Ireland should not have to expose or prove vulnerabilities and private matters in order to access medical treatment.

As long as the Constitution confers equal rights on the mother and the foetus, doctors and nurses will be unable to treat women ethically. As long as the Constitution remains as it is, those privileged enough to afford to travel will make those difficult journeys without the support they need. As long as the Constitution remains as it is, we consign the most vulnerable women and girls in our society to a system which will not listen to them, which will not give them any say over their own bodies, which will prioritise birth over any long term trauma caused to them.

The people should be given the opportunity to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution and to enact a law that places women’s capacity to make decisions regarding their bodies and their futures at the heart of their medical treatment. The government claims it has no mandate to act on the 8th Amendment. This group of 100 academics, comprising women and the men who support us, adds its voice to the demands that the government finally listens, finally acknowledges that this mandate exists and finally gives us our referendum.

  1. Sinéad Agnew, PhD student, LSE
  2. Prof Jack Anderson, School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast
  3. Dr Elizabeth Aston, Edinburgh Napier University
  4. Ivana Bacik, Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Law School, Trinity College Dublin
  5. Dr Helen Basini, Dept. of Politics and Public Administration, University of Limerick
  6. Prof Christine Bell, University of Edinburgh
  7. Claire Bracken, Associate Professor, Union College, Schenectady, NY
  8. Claire Bruton, BL
  9. Dr Audrey Bryan, Lecturer in Sociology, Dublin City University
  10. Dr Michelle Butler, School of Sociology, Queen’s University Belfast
  11. Dr Susan Cahill, School of Canadian Irish Studies, Concordia University, Montreal
  12. Dr Nicola Carr, School of Sociology, Queen’s University Belfast
  13. Mr Donal Casey, Kent Law School
  14. Professor Danielle Clarke, University College Dublin
  15. Professor Claire Connolly, University College Cork
  16. Dr Linda Connolly, Dept of Sociology, University College Cork
  17. Dr Vicky Conway, Kent Law School
  18. Dr Íde Corley, Lecturer in English, NUI Maynooth
  19. Dr Louise Crowley, Dept of Law, University College Cork
  20. Dr Pauline Cullen, NUI Maynooth
  21. Dr Aoife Daly, School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool
  22. Dr John Danaher, Lecturer in Law, NUI Galway
  23. Hilary Darcy, PhD researcher, Department of Sociology, NUI Maynooth
  24. Dr Fergal Davis, University of New South Wales
  25. Mr Alan Desmond, European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation
  26. Dr Darren Dinsmore, Kent Law School
  27. Sonya Donnelly, B.L.
  28. Dr Fiona Donson, University College Cork
  29. Dr Deirdre Duffy, Edge Hill University
  30. Dr Fiona Dukelow, University College, Cork
  31. Professor Fiona De Londras, Durham Law School
  32. Ms Mairead Enright, Kent Law School
  33. Dr Michelle Farrell, Lecturer in Law, University of Liverpool
  34. Dr Helen Finch, University of Leeds
  35. Dr Clara Fischer, Gender Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science
  36. Dr Ruth Fletcher, School of Law, Queen Mary University London
  37. Ms Christine Gaffney, Dept of Applied Social Studies, UCC
  38. Ms Caoilfhionn Gallagher, Doughty Street Chambers, London
  39. Dr James Gallen, Lecturer, School of Law and Government, Dublin City University
  40. Dr Daragh Grant, University of Chicago
  41. Dr Diarmuid Griffin, NUI Galway
  42. Dr Claire Hamilton, School of Sociology, Queen’s University Belfast
  43. Niamh Hayes, Ph.D. candidate, Irish Centre for Human Rights
  44. Professor Patrick Hanafin, School of Law, Birkbeck
  45. Dr Maebh Harding, Assistant Professor, University of Warwick
  46. Dr Sarah Hayden, School of English, University College Cork
  47. Dr Edel Hughes, School of Business and Law, University of East London
  48. Dr Jonathan Illan, University of Kent
  49. Dr Declan Kavanagh, University of Kent
  50. Jennifer Kavanagh, Law Lecturer, Waterford IT
  51. Dr Michael Kearney, University of Sussex
  52. Fiona Kearney, Director, Lewis Glucksman Gallery
  53. Dr Cliona Kelly, Cardiff Law School
  54. Dr Louise Kennefick, School of Law, Maynooth University
  55. Elizabeth Kiely, School of Applied Social Studies, UCC
  56. Dr Colin King, School of Law, University of Manchester
  57. Dr Heather Laird, School of English, UCC
  58. Stefanie Lehner, Queen’s University Belfast
  59. Dr Maebh Long, University of the South Pacific
  60. Dr Madeleine Lyes, University College Dublin
  61. Dr Orla Lynskey, Assistant Professor of Law, London School of Economics
  62. Dr Louise Mallinder, School of Law, University of Ulster
  63. Dr Paula Mayock, Trinity College Dublin
  64. Adam McAuley, School of Law and Government, DCU
  65. Dr Julie McCandless, Law Department, London School of Economics
  66. Fiona McCann, Senior Lecturer, Université de Lille 3, France
  67. Ms Claire McGing, NUI Maynooth
  68. Dr Joe McGrath, Dept of Law, NUI Galway
  69. Sheelagh McGuinness, University of Birmingham
  70. Ms Aisling McMahon, Newcastle Law School
  71. Dr Siobhán McPhee, University of British Columbia, Canada
  72. Caroline Meenan, BL
  73. Dr Lucy Michael, Lecturer in Criminology, University of Hull
  74. Dr Marie Moran, College Lecturer, UCD School of Social Justice
  75. Jane Mulcahy, Independent Legal and Social Policy Researcher
  76. Dr Anne Mulhall, School of English, Drama and Film, University College Dublin
  77. Nicola Murphy, School of Law, National University of Ireland, Galway.
  78. Dr Claire Murray, Dept of Law, University College Cork
  79. Mr Colin Murray, Newcastle Law School
  80. Ms Anne Neylon, PhD Candidate, Dept of Law, University College Cork
  81. Professor Aoife Nolan, School of Law, University of Nottingham
  82. Briege Nugent, University of Edinburgh
  83. Ms Bríd Ní Ghráinne, School of Law, University of Sheffield
  84. Dr Eadaoin O’Brien,School of Law and Human Rights Centre, University of Essex
  85. Dr Aoife O’Donoghue, Durham Law School
  86. Connor O’Donoghue, School of Education, Trinity College Dublin
  87. Dr Katherine O’Donnell, UCD Women’s Studies Centre
  88. Dr Clíona Ó Gallchoir, School of English, University College Cork
  89. Dr Linda O’Keeffe, Lancaster Institute of Contemporary Art
  90. Dr Margaret O’Neill, School of Culture and Communication, University of Limerick
  91. Dr Catherine O’Rourke, School of Law, University of Ulster
  92. Dr Catherine O’Sullivan, Dept of Law, University College Cork
  93. Dr Emer O’Toole, School of Canadian Irish Studies, Concordia University
  94. Dr Tina O’Toole, School of Culture & Communication, University of Limerick
  95. Dr Sinead Pembroke, Research Fellow, Trinity College Dublin
  96. Shivaun Quinlivan, School of Law, NUI Galway
  97. Dr Emma Radley, UCD School of English, Drama and Film
  98. Prof Clionadh Raleigh, University of Sussex
  99. Dr Sinead Ring, Kent Law School
  100. Ms Jane Rooney, Durham Law School
  101. Dr Edel Semple, School of English, University College Cork
  102. Dr Olivia Smith, Dublin City University
  103. Dr Joseph Spooner, Assistant Professor, LSE Department of Law
  104. Dr Ciara Staunton, Department of Medicine, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
  105. Dr Gavin Titley, NUI Maynooth
  106. Dr Sharon Thompson, Keele University
  107. Dr Liam Thornton, University College Dublin
  108. Ms Anwen Tormey, University of Chicago
  109. Dr Sorcha Uí Chonnachtaigh, School of Law & Centre for Professional Ethics, Keele University
  110. Dr Illan Rua Wall, Associate Professor, University of Warwick
  111. Dr Judy Walsh, Equality Studies, University College Dublin
  112. Ms Malgorzata Wronska, NUI Galway
Time for Our Referendum

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