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Anti-Amendment Poster

Anti-Amendment meeting Cork

Cork Meeting Anti-Amendment Campaign

Written by Orla Egan

The Cork LGBT community was actively involved in the Anti-Amendment Campaign in the early 1980s.  The community was conscious of the important of making links between campaigns for gay rights and wider social change campaigns, particularly those that were concerned with morality, sexual freedom and gender stereotyping.  The Cork Gay Collective had stated clearly their solidarity with the Women’s Movement “recognising that our shared oppression derives from the abuse of sexuality as a tool of exploitation which necessitated strict gender stereotyping and the denial of sexual fulfilment.” (Cork Gay Collective Leaflet)

On 27th April 1981 a Pro-Life Amendment Campaign (PLAC) was launched with the aim of putting pressure on the Irish government to hold a referendum to insert an amendment to the Irish constitution guaranteeing the right to life of the foetus. Gradually opposition to PLAC emerged in feminist, socialist and liberal circles and Protestant church leaders began to voice their objections.  Two conferences were held in December 1981 and March 1982 to discuss how to respond to PLAC.  The conferences endorsed the establishment of a mixed (women and men) Women’s Right to Choose Campaign (WRCC) which would oppose PLAC from a pro-choice position.  Others felt it was better to set up a broad-based alliance which would oppose the amendment but would not be openly pro-choice,  In April 1982 an Anti-Amendment Campaign (AAC) was set up.

See Orla Egan The Politics of Abortion in Ireland and the Netherlands, MA Thesis Women’s Studies, UCC, 1992

Anti-Amendment Poster 2Lesbian and gay groups throughout the country became involved in the Anti-Amendment Campaign (AAC) and some became affiliated to the Women’s Right to Choose Campaign (WRCC).  In Dublin there was considerable controversy and serious disagreements in relation to the question of the affiliation of the National Gay Federation (NGF) to the Women’s Right to Choose Campaign.  Despite the fact that a NGF workshop and ballot were both in favour of affiliating, the NGF Administrative Council decided not to affiliate to the WRCC. (NGF News Issue No. 3, Vol. 2, May Lesbian and Gay Visions1983)  This led to feelings of anger and betrayal among lesbian women who had worked with and within the NGF.  Joni Crone commented that this “betrayal of lesbian and heterosexual women who had campaigned previously for gay male law reform resulted in lesbians leaving the NGF.  And it was the last time many of us choose to work in any official capacity with gay men.”  (Joni Crone “Lesbians: The Lavender Women of Ireland” in Lesbian and Gay Visions of Ireland1995 p 68)

Anti Amendment National Demonstration

Anti-Amendment National Demonstration

The controversy over affiliation to WRCC seems to have occurred mainly in Dublin.  Gay men were actively Kieran Roseinvolved in the anti-amendment campaign in Cork alongside a broad-based alliance of ‘alternative’ groups and individuals. Kieran Rose states that “gay men were to become a driving-force in the campaign giving it a sense of energy and confidence.”  He claims that involvement in the AAC was an important and valuable experience for the Cork Gay Collective: it “provided us with the opportunity to challenge conservative hegemony especially in what was a tightly knit town such as Cork…..While the campaign continued over more than a year and monopolised our attention, it also provided us with considerable skills, experience and confidence.”  (Kieran Rose, Diverse Communities, 1994 p 18)

Out for Ourselves There seems to have been a problem over the recognition and acknowledgment of the contribution of lesbian and gay organisations in the Anti-Amendment Campaign nationally.  The Dublin Lesbian and Gay Collectives in Out for Ourselves note that “the first time we became involved in a national campaign as a separate, visible entity, was during the Anti-Amendment Campaign (AAC).  Lesbians and gay men all over the country worked very hard to fight the anti-woman proposal……Despite our activity, our fund-raising efforts and our position as some of the earliest affiliated groups, none of us managed to make it onto the public list of affiliated organisations.  Nor did our rights even sneak into campaign literature.’  (Out for Ourselves 1986 p. 212)

Step in Wrong Direction

Anti-Amendment Poster

So while LGBT group saw the need for mutual solidarity between groups opposing restrictive and repressive measures in Ireland, this support was often not reciprocal and some in these campaigns sought to hide the involvement of LGBT groups because of fears that visible involvement of LGBT groups would damage the image of the campaigns.

Despite the work of the AAC an amendment enshrining the right to life of the unborn was passed on 7 September 1983.  (This amendment is still in effect and has had far reaching and dangerous impact on women’s lives and health in Ireland.  A campaign is currently underway to Repeal the 8th Amendment.)

Cork groups continued to be active in the post-amendment campaigns.  After the 1983 referendum the campaign became more broad based, with the focus on the basic principle that “everyone should have the right to control their own bodies.  This included access to free safe legal abortion on demand, access to the full range of contraceptives, removal of the illegitimacy status, proper child care facilities, choice of sexuality and support in custody cases for lesbian mothers.” (Bill Foley, NGF News Issue No. 8, Vol. 2 December 1983)

A Defend the Clinics group began to meet in Cork, initially in the Women’s Place in the Quay Co-op but it moved from here when men became involved in the group.  A pregnancy telephone helpline was set up, but the Co-op refused to allow it to operate from the Co-op as there were fears that this could result in an injunction against the Co-op.  This caused some ill-feeling towards the Co-op  The phoneline operated from one woman’s flat two night a week. (Interviewee in Jacqui O Riordan The Womansplace BA Thesis, UCC, 1992)

Hands OffThe following is the text which appears on the Anti-Amendment poster with the cross:

NO REAL SEX EDUCATION FOR CHILDREN

NO LEGAL CONTRACEPTION FOR PEOPLE UNLESS THEY ARE MARRIED

NO LEGAL WAY TO END A BROKEN MARRIAGE

UNMARRIED MOTHERS ARE SOCIAL AND FAMILY OUTCASTS

A CHILD BORN OUTSIDE MARRIAGE IS BRANDED FROM CRADLE TO THE GRAVE

LANDLORDS WILL NOT LET FLATS TO PREGNANT WOMEN OR TO COUPLES WITH CHILDREN

DUBLIN CORPORATION GIVES PARENTS EXTRA HOUSING PRIORITY ON THE BASIS OF THE WOMAN HAVING ANOTHER CHILD

7000+ IRISH WOMEN GO TO ENGLAND EACH YEAR TO HAVE ABORTIONS

YET THE GOVERNMENT IS ASKING YOU TO VOTE AGAINST THOSE 7000 WOMEN’S OWN PAINFUL CHOICE THAT HAS BEEN MADE IN THE LIGHT OF THESE SOCIAL ATTITUDES AND CONDITIONS

CHILDREN OF TRAVELLERS SPEND WINTER EACH YEAR IN RAGS UNDER TENTS BY THE ROADSIDE: GET NO PROPER EDUCATION AND THEIR PARENTS ARE STONED & MOVED ON

CHILDREN HOMELESS AND DESTITUTE ON THE STREETS OF OUR CAPITAL BEGGING CALLED A CRIME STEALING FOR SURVIVAL CALLED A CRIME: AGE OF CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY – 7

 HANDS OFF THE CONSTITUTION

THE ANTI-AMENDMENT CAMPAIGN P.O. BOX 1285 DUBLIN 7

 

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