Ireland was recently host to a ‘battle of the buses’ with abortion rights at the centre of the debates.
Rosa (for Reproductive rights against oppression, sexism and austerity) is an Irish pro-choice organisation which was established by the female members of the socialist party in 2013
When they made it public knowledge that they would be touring the country in their ‘Bus 4 Repeal’ it was no surprise that an opposition group sprung into action and decided to do something about it.
Newly formed anti-abortionists The Irish Centre for Bioethical Reform (ICBR) are a branch of the UK’s Abort67. They decided to have their own bus to follow the Bus 4 Repeal and called it the ‘exposing deception tour.’ Leading to the ‘battle of the buses.’
They named themselves after two influential women named Rosa. One being Rosa Parks who sparked the Montgomery bus boycott of the Civil Rights Movement in America. The other is Rosa Luxemburg who was an activist in the 20th century and was ultimately killed for her political views.
Their main aim is to repeal the 8th amendment in Ireland. This is the amendment that essentially makes the rights of a foetus equal to the mother. They’re hoping for a referendum on the 8th amendment, and to fully decriminalise abortion so that they can distribute abortion pills to those who need it.
On average 12 women a day travel to England from Ireland for an abortion. This is a very expensive trip that not everyone can afford to make. The cheaper alternative route that many people take is buying abortion pills online.
This is becoming a harder task as they have a lot of problems getting the pills into the country as customs confiscate the packages before they can enter the country. Police have also started to actively search for these pills by raiding houses in Northern Ireland, but have so far found nothing. One of the raids was on pro-choice campaigner Helen Crickard’s workshop, she told The Guardian that she felt ‘violated and humiliated.’
If these pills are cut off Rita Hammond, a spokesperson for Rosa, worries there will be a ‘crisis’ that will affect the poorest of women.
Hammond talks about how the movement for abortion rights can be extremely political. Noting the difference between those who can and can not access safe abortions.
‘Those who can afford to travel and talk to a doctor face to face, have the highest standard of care. Versus those who can’t afford it, they have to speak to someone over the internet or possibly not even access that information. That is very clearly a class issue.’
Leading them to their latest venture the Bus 4 Repeal. They said that the purpose of this tour is to ‘provide direct assistance to those in need of safe abortion pills and to campaign for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to legalise abortion in Ireland.’
This bus toured around Ireland for 3 days visiting cities and universities. The final stop was in Dublin and coincided with International Women’s Day.
Hammond described International Women’s Day as a ‘major day of action for the fight for women’s rights,’ which is why they ended their tour that day in the capital. They were met by 2,000 people supporting their cause.
During the three days they held rallies at each stop along the way and gave out information about the pills which is illegal according to the Abortion Information Act.
Aboard the bus, women can get help and information on their pregnancies. They can have consultations and the women can be put in touch with websites such as womenonweb.org.
Womenonweb.org are an international organisation run by doctors in the Netherlands. They sends pills through the post to women in countries where abortion is illegal or restrictive for example Africa, South America and of course Ireland.
There are often anti-abortion displays in Ireland, opposing their opinions and hoping to keep abortion illegal in their country. ICBR followed the bus to every stop and held their displays opposite the bus. Their displays include graphic abortion images that are often criticised.
Jean- Simonis Engela, the director of the new organisation, defends the use of graphic images by saying that they are educational, ‘if showing this is way to awful, then why would we make it lawful. If it’s too horrifying to visualise, then it’s too depraved to legalise.”
A spokesperson for ICBR, Aisling Hubert commented on the plans for the bus, saying they were providing the opposite view and ensuring that women were told the whole truth. They followed Rosa’s ‘abortion bus’ everywhere they went. Hubert said, ‘We will expose the graphic reality of abortion using large banners that show the broken bodies of pre-born children dismembered through abortion.’ She goes on to talk about how the Rosa volunteers are not medical experts but in her words ‘anarchists that only care about one thing – killing pre-born babies.’