It's been a long road to May 25th. Abortion has been illegal in Ireland since 1861. In 1983, a referendum was held to maintain the 8th Amendment, and since this point, it has been an uphill battle to even get the topic discussed in parliament. The modern repeal the 8th movement began in 2012 when pro-choice groups in cities and towns across the country came together to form the "Irish Choice Network". Ever since its formation, the movement has been growing until the government decided once again to put the 8th Amendment up for scrutiny via a referendum.
Since then, groups and individuals across the country have been campaigning and canvassing tirelessly to give Irish women bodily autonomy. One of the earliest Repeal The 8th campaigners in Limerick was Michael of instrumental metal band Dark Matter. Lee can often be seen wearing his custom-made repeal t-shirt, with the lettering set in a more gothic font. Lee sat down with GoldenPlec to discuss the referendum and why it's so important for men to vote.
Why are you voting yes?
I’m voting yes for several reasons. We’ve always been aware of the injustices women have faced in this country over the years and anything that can prevent these should be supported. The eighth Amendment is just one injustice. We’ve had some crazy restrictions removed from the constitution and from law over the years and the next step is to repeal the eighth Amendment.
Nobody should be denied the right to bodily autonomy, the right to freedom, the right to healthcare and the right to choose. That's the default for me. I will never need to avail of these services myself, but at the same time, I'm not denied any fundamental healthcare. I see some men out there want to abstain because they believe it's a women’s issue and they shouldn't have a say on this.
I see where that viewpoint comes from but there’s a flaw in the logic. Sure, this affects women but every citizen has the right to vote in a referendum. If no men voted, the vote would be determined by women - but you can be sure that there are many men on the other side who will absolutely be voting no. Men who truly believe this is a woman’s issue need to prove it, by voting Yes.
Have you been on a personal journey to come to this decision?
Like everybody else, I've read the stories (there are some truly harrowing stories from In Her Shoes -Women Of The Eighth) and with every post, I'm thinking to myself - these stories could be from a friend, a partner, a family member. What if they were? If I vote no, I'm allowing more and more of these shocking stories to be written. I'm enabling these injustices and allowing this heartbreak to continue.
I think a lot of people feel the same way, we’re all terrified that someday, someone close to us will need to take a flight - because they can’t get the support they need in this country. My partner is also the chair of Limerick Together For Yes so I’ve been privy to the inner workings of the campaign for some time now. There’s a staggering amount of work being done behind the scenes to coordinate the Limerick campaign, and similar dedicated work is being carried out by other local groups around the country.
This is all being done by people in their own spare time. They aren’t getting paid, the work is driven by sheer passion and the need to repeal the Eighth Amendment. I’ve seen and attended the events and marches that have taken place around the country and the passion and energy the groups have pumped into this over the years is inspiring.
Have you had difficult conversations about this issue? If so, what advice would you give people who are hesitant to have these conversations?
I have and I think every conversation is difficult in some way as this is such an emotive topic. To the people who might be hesitant to have these discussions - it’s completely understandable. It may sometimes be hard to broach this subject with family members or friends for fear of conflicting opinions.
Nobody likes conflict, but I can’t stress how important it is to talk to people about this to ensure everyone has the facts; why we’re voting, what the ramifications are of not voting, what the legislation will be, and so on. With any referendum or social issue, there will be external influences to some degree and propaganda will follow.
Such a passionate subject can breed misinformation and this is, unfortunately, coming across in some of the posters, leaflets and media releases of late from the No side. It’s a desperate attempt to influence a No vote but in a way it’s almost understandable, some people don’t like change and will do everything in their power to prevent it.
We absolutely have to have conversations to make sure incorrect information doesn’t influence votes. The Referendum Commission have some work to do to regulate advertisements on social media but until then, we all have to take part in the discussion.
Is there anything you’d like to say to undecided voters?
To those who may be undecided on how they would like to vote, or to those who may want to abstain or spoil their vote, please make sure to have all the facts to hand. There is some great unbiased information available from the Referendum Commission.
Talk to co-workers, talk to friends, I’m sure you’ll find the majority of people are happy to have a conversation about the referendum and all surrounding it but the most important thing in my mind is to trust women. Every single Yes vote is important in making this happen. Allow the women in your life to have the right to choose. Take the power from the state and hand it back to doctors and women.