The Eight Amendment, which prohibits women from making a choice in regards to their bodily autonomy, has been hotly contested since its introduction in 1983. Although pro-choice campaigners had fought for years for the amendment to be repealed it is only in the last number of years that the pro-choice campaign has been given the main stage. Now a time frame from the Taoiseach could block students voting on the eighth amendment.
On Friday, Leo Varadkar spoke about the time frame for hosting the Eight Amendment referendum:
The windows that we have in mind are around June/July next year, another set in November at the same time as the presidential election and then another set in May or June 2019 at the same time as the local and European elections.
Today the Union Of Students In Ireland (USI), a pro-choice organisation that represents over 354,000 students, are concerned with the Taoiseachs recommendations. In a statement on the USI website, the organisations believe the referendum must stand alone and must take into consideration that 85% of the members of the USI is younger than 23, and approximately half are female. A referendum in June or July will see students denied a chance to vote.
The President of the USI Michael Kerrigan commented on the problematic time frame:
USI has a long history of campaigning and voting on issues of social justice. Students won’t know where they will be casting their vote in June or July. Students could be at their family home, on a J1, or still in their student accommodation.
The Union believes that Irish students have not had a chance to vote on this issue since the referendum in 1983 and deserve that right. Students facing crisis pregnancy and seeking an abortion have had to face a number of challenges to organise an abortion abroad including international students may have to apply for visas, a student may have issues with their passport, the expense on booking last minute flights, loss of wages from taking time off and the academic penalties for missing mandatory classes or teaching hours.
According to the UK Department of Health, approximately one-quarter of women who seek an abortion in the UK gave Irish addresses and are aged between the ages of 18-25.