Given the huge momentum that has been building in opposition to our antiquated abortion laws, Rosi Leonard imagines a world beyond repeal, a world where this energy spreads into addressing other ills.
The polling stations open at 7am tomorrow. You have walked the streets of every city in the country with flyers, badges, labels, arguments, one liners, facts, leaflets, signatures, phone numbers. Your sister came with you door-knocking on your estate. Your father has a red heart in the back window and took a few more off you for work.
Your mother tells you not to get your hopes up but you found out from your aunt that it’s all she talks about when you’re not around. Your grandad was on the fence, she convinced him on Tuesday and they’re going together to the polling station. She’s proud of you; it’ll only show when she holds your aunt’s hand as she tells you if it weren’t for your mother she’d never have had the money to travel 15 years ago.
Your step-dad hasn’t told you how he’s voting. He leaves an extra plate of dinner out for you when you come back at 3am every morning after a 14 hours shift in the campaign offices and makes sure your sisters don’t touch it.
You were born the year of the X Case, when a woman who you’ve probably passed on the streets was raped and denied the right to travel by your government. She miscarried during the trial, and it took 21 years for the government to change a thing. You think about her a lot tonight. You’ve had two abortions from pills you ordered online.
In college you mostly faffed around feeling sorry for yourself but the last few years have given you focus and ammunition. Miss Y was the final straw. You went to a protest. You cried during the speeches even though you can’t remember what was said or who was there.
You wonder is the woman secretly here. If she was, what would she think? You had three pints afterwards without dinner and punched a car window on your way home. It belonged to your local TD who voted against a bill to allow #abortion in the case of suicide.
You went to a meeting. There were 70 people there and four people behind a table at the top of the room. They say things you already know. You went along with your friend who’s been at this stuff for years. She points out one of the speakers in the crowd. “She’s in charge of outreach, I’m signing up for that training.” You say you’ll go along but you’re pretty shy. Turns out you’re a natural.
Some people are getting nervous at the doors so people pair up but there’s an uneven number. Pairs form around you and start trickling down the street and into driveways until you’re the last one left. The lad in charge of this session is inexperienced and doesn’t notice you’re on your own. You don’t really want to be trapped with him all night so fuck it, you turn around and go for it. When you get home 4 hours later you’re wide awake and sit up till 2am too buzzed for anything but staring at the wall.
Everyone was into Repeal. Everyone started pasting it and sticking it everywhere. You’re not sure, but you can’t complain because it’s better people are talking about it than not? But you just don’t trust it. Repeal. And then what?
The state has been telling women they’re useless scum for 80 years and the most you’re asking is Repeal? Fuck that. You want compensation. You’ve helped a few friends order it now online. You all plan on sending Simon Harris a bill. You’ve never spent €35 on a jumper in your life. It’s good all the same you say to yourself, there’s more people at the meetings now and there’s more meetings happening in more places.
The march is in a month. You’re leafleting dart stations when someone spits in your face. Everyone else takes one. A lot of people take more. Is it Repeal that’s working or decades of loneliness finally undoing itself. People want to talk. They’re happy when they’re talking.
The buses will be on strike the month of the march. Your group makes contact with them, a woman in the group is married to a driver and has to drop out of meetings because of her taking extra shifts. Their rent is increasing. Everyone’s rent is increasing. Three people have left the group because of emigration.
Suicide rates are rising. Suicide for fucks sake. You lost a friend to it two years ago. You can’t afford counselling even though once or twice you wished you were dead too. But things are changing. There are people around you. You are talking every day now. You are part of something you love and loves you back. You go to the picket lines with 20 others from your local repeal group and block a scab driver from leaving the depot. 800 bus workers will come to the march under their banner.
On the day of the march 2,000 more than expected have turned up. The police have cordoned off the main street, ‘roadworks’ they say. This happens all the time lately. People are angry at the delay. Some people say the police are right, it’s not safe, we’ll go down the back roads and make a big impact when we hit the other side of town. But it’s too late for all that.
Just that week another story has come to light of a woman in Direct Provision who was arrested after the manager of the centre found abortion pills in her room. She is threatened with deportation. Someone with a megaphone shouts options at the crowd, and the decision is made. A hundred women tear the barriers off. Police hit them and push them back, but there’s 20,000 of you.
That was two years ago. 8 months ago the government fell. You surrounded the dail for 3 days until the new lot set a date for the referendum. You threatened a strike, a national strike, holy fuck. You know what tomorrow will bring. You’re going to win, you know you are going to win.
The strike will most likely go ahead; the new hospitals the government promised have not been delivered. The rent caps have not met demands. The homelessness crisis is continuing; you were evicted last month and are living back with your family. A tenants union was set up in Cork last year and stopped 30 evictions in one block, your cousin is working on one in his estate. They’re now paying €300 a month, unheard of.
After you finish celebrating tomorrow you’re gonna meet up with him.
It’s good to keep going, it’s good to win again, and now it’s happening in public, every day.
There are no single issues.
Illustration by Mice.