Sammy Nickalls
November 06, 2015 6:21 am

When comedian Grainne Maguire started tweeting Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny about her period on Monday, it was no laughing matter. Maguire wanted to raise awareness about something essential: A campaign to repeal the eighth amendment of the Irish constitution.

The amendment criminalizes abortion, equating the life of the fetus to the life of the mother. In fact, Ireland has one of the world’s strictest abortion laws, penalizing all those who undertake the procedure, including rape victims, with up to 14 years in prison, according to Amnesty International.

Currently, various pro-choice groups are calling for Kenny to repeal the amendment, while a petition by Amnesty International on the subject has received over 47,000 signatures. But Maguire decided to get social media involved in the mix in a personal and powerful way.

Since Maguire’s tweets, women all over the country have started live-tweeting their own menstrual cycles using the hashtag #repealthe8th to raise awareness.

Some tweets are especially poignant, expressing the devastation they’ve had to endure due to the eighth amendment.

Others have used the hashtag to point out the injustices of the law.

“The human rights of women are violated on a daily basis because of a constitution that treats them like child-bearing vessels,” Amnesty’s Secretary General, Salil Shetty, told BBC. “Women who need abortions are treated like criminals, stigmatised and forced to travel abroad, taking a serious toll on their mental and physical health.”

The only time a complete abortion ban was lifted in Ireland was in 2013, when terminations were allowed if the mother’s life was in danger. This followed the death of Savita Halappanavar, who suffered from blood poisoning after she miscarried because she was not allowed to abort her dying fetus. An inquest after her death was told that she would have survived if she had been able to get an abortion.

Kenny has not commented on the social media campaign, but has said in the past that he has “no intention” to abolish the eighth amendment.
“In respect of the eighth amendment I do not favour abortion on demand and I have no intention of abolishing the eighth amendment without considering what it might be that might replace it,” Kenny said recently. “But believe me, believe me, to commit to abolishing the eighth amendment without consideration of what you might do is not on my radar.”

Still the latest Twitter movement is calling attention to the issue on a global level—and allowing more women’s voices to be heard. And that’s a powerful thing.

Related reading: 

23 things we wish we knew before we got our periods

An underwear invention might TOTALLY revolutionize the whole “feminine hygiene” world

(Image via iStock.)

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