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10th April 2018, 12:00:32 UTC

Amnesty International is calling on people all over Ireland to get talking about the forthcoming referendum on repeal of the Eighth Amendment. At this critical moment in Irish history, Amnesty has launched the ‘It’s Time To Talk’ campaign which will see hundreds of thousands of conversations all around the country about the importance of a ‘Yes’ vote in the run up to polling day on May 25.

The campaign was launched today with Minister for Health Simon Harris and independent Senator Lynn Ruane, who was a member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment, joining Amnesty International Ireland Executive Director Colm O’Gorman to chat with traders on Dublin’s Moore Street.

“It’s taken a long time to get here, and we’ve heard a lot from politicians of late, but now it is over to the people,” said Minister Simon Harris.

“From this point forward, it will be the conversations people have with friends and family that will decide this crucial referendum.

“I believe Ireland is a country that wants to treat women with respect and compassion, and that once people really engage with the issues they’ll see that a ‘Yes’ vote is the only way to do that. Unless we remove the Eighth Amendment from our Constitution, we will continue to force thousands of women and girls in this country to go abroad to access abortions and thousands more to use abortion pills in their own homes and without proper medical supervision. The shame, the isolation; it’s time to talk about the reality of that, and to change it.”

Senator Ruane spoke about the importance of the referendum result to women and girls in every community across Ireland.

“I’ve seen some people suggest that this issue is being dictated by ‘elites’. In fact, it is powerful elites who have for decades blocked women’s access to abortion and reproductive healthcare in Ireland”, said Senator Lynn Ruane.

“But it is very often marginalised women who need access to abortion the most who are least likely to be able to get it. This referendum is about working class women,  it’s about women everywhere. We need a conversation that is inclusive of all our communities. We cannot be airbrushed out or dismissed. This referendum is about us too.”

“This is a once in a generation opportunity for us, the people, to have our say,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.

“It has taken 35 years, seven governments, a European Court of Human Rights ruling, the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar and the suffering of countless other women and girls, Ireland being repeatedly hauled before the United Nations, a massive civil society campaign, a Citizens’ Assembly, and a special Joint Oireachtas Committee to get us to this referendum.  This is it.  Now is the time to decide what kind of a country we want Ireland to be.

“Every vote really will count. We’re asking people to think about what it might mean if they do not get involved in this conversation or don’t vote. A ‘no’ result in this referendum means the retention of the Eighth Amendment and all the suffering it causes. It means the ongoing denial of the human rights of women and girls in Ireland. It will mean we will retain laws which carry the threat of a 14-year prison sentence for women in crisis, when we should be providing them care and compassion here at home.”

“People need a chance to talk over the issues with people they know and trust. Such conversations need to start with one simple question: If a woman is pregnant, and cannot continue that pregnancy, who should decide what happens next?”

Over the next six weeks, Amnesty will be supporting people of all ages and backgrounds across Ireland as they pledge to strike up at least one conversation a day to bring about a historic ‘Yes’ vote. The campaign website has all the facts people need, tips on how to start those tough conversations and a way to ‘pledge to talk’ so others can see they’re joining the thousands of conversations being had every day.