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20th Aug 2016

Repeal Project founder Anna Cosgrave: “Repeal Project is my micro contribution to a movement spanning decades”

Anna Cosgrave

Throat choked and eyes bulged with tears, I’m sat in front of another girl, in a Dublin café who talks me through her personal experience with abortion and the continual emotional and mental aftermath of living in a country where abortion is Illegal.

“They sat me down and told me to never ever tell anyone”

This is Ireland, a country that marginalizes half its population, that silences the lived experiences of women and stigmatizes those who speak up and out.

A country I love so much but yet am ashamed at for the hurt, shame, and stigma it inflicts on its people and the continual barbaric onslaught that the women of Ireland face daily.

The reality is over 160,000 women since the 1980s have travelled abroad to access abortion. The reality is today up to 12 will leave our shores every single day, whilst they are temporarily exiled to access abortion. The reality is unavoidable, so when will our government take action? How many more lonely journeys will Irish women have to travel and how many more women will have to die unnecessarily before this amendment is repealed?

In 2012, alongside a gathering of silent, appalled mourners at the vigil outside government building for Savita Halappanvar who needlessly died due to Ireland’s regressive anti-abortion laws. Like many, I felt powerless, haunted and outraged. That evening, I had a visceral knee jerk reaction to what had happened and knew despite not being able to properly articulate my personal frustration, I wanted to do something to help those affected by Ireland’s Abortion laws in a small way and contribute to the pro-choice movement.

Many questions pervaded my thoughts when I began thinking about this issue. What about the migrant women of Ireland who can’t travel abroad? What about the discrimination the working class women of Ireland face? What about the young girls who don’t know who to turn to for help? What about the harrowing turmoil facing a mother experiencing fatal foetal abnormality and having to carry to term? What about victims of rape or incest? What about the girls and women we pass every day who carry around an unnecessary secret?

One question which stuck out was how was I helping people affected by this issue? I couldn’t really answer this until I attended the talks on the 8th amendment and reproductive rights and listened to Colm O’Gorman form Amnesty Ireland talk about the transformative power of discourse and conversation.

Cassie and Grace from very bravely talked about the onus they felt in sharing the stories of women who have accessed abortion. That night having seen a photo of Gloria Steinem feminist activist and writer wearing a t-shirt that said ‘I had an abortion’ I figured a way I could make a micro-contribution to the Pro-Choice movement.

That was moving the conversation offline outside of the online liberal echo chamber I was existing in and onto a jumper. Clothes say a lot for things that can’t speak and for an issue that had been shrouded in secrecy and shame I felt they could act as statements of solidarity for women affected by the issue, as a stigma buster to open up a conversation on reproductive rights and as a fundraising mechanism for the multitude of volunteer-run organisations working on this issue. Repeal Project is my micro-contribution to a movement spanning decades. Today and tomorrow women and girls of Ireland will be temporarily exiled and criminalised for accessing basic healthcare, whilst our government ignores them I can’t.

This issue needs to be met with empathy, compassion, support, reason, logic, and facts.  REPEAL project would not have happened without the sheer bravery and strength of the multitude of women coming forward with their stories acting as a catalyst for me on to speak out. As well as some amazingly talented people volunteering their time and passion. My restlessness has turned to relentlessness and I owe Tara Flynn, Roisin Ingle, Helen Linehan, Polly Vernon, Susan Cahill, Janet Ní Shúilleabháin and many other women and girls, who have shared their stories a debt of gratitude.

There are now hundreds and thousands of Irish women that have been affected by this issue, as well as thousands of people who volunteer their time and energy to fight for the rights of Irish women. Fighting for something even with what feels like insurmountable obstacles are worth it when you know the one day you will be on the right side of history. funded the initial stock run, a massive risk as with no real idea of where the project would go and very little experience of running something like it they believed in what the project is seeking to do.

Repeal Project’s aim is to make this issue seen, the voices and stories of Irish women heard as absolutely nothing can negate that. Hoping to sell a hundred jumpers was the aim and I grossly underestimated what the response would be and within a week orders were amounting to 60 a day.

Completely overwhelmed and unable to deal with the logistical/supply I enlisted the help of a friends dad who had a garage.  I hope that for anyone left waiting for a jumper knows it was a telling sign of the urgency and that people want to engage with this issue. It’s time now for our government to listen. Repeal Project’s first donation drop will be outside the Dail to the Abortion Rights Campaign, before the March For Choice on the 24th of September.

The coalition to repeal the 8th Amendment is a group of over 60 organisations working towards lifting Ireland’s restrictive and regressive abortion laws, find out about a group in your hometown, join one, start a conversation, wear a badge and stand in support and solidarity for the women and girls leaving our shores every single day.


This story is brought to you in partnership with The Repeal Project.

We have pledged to tell, share and amplify the stories of abortion in Ireland today. To share your story contact [email protected].

Get your Repeal Project jumper HERE.