How To Talk To The People In Your Life About The 8th Referendum

Handling those tricky #repealthe8th conversations.

Yesterday, as thousands turned out for a pro-choice march in Dublin, the government passed the bill that will allow for a referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

The exact date hasn’t been set yet, but we do know it’s going to be sometime in May.

If you feel strongly about repealing the Eighth, you’re probably going to have lots of conversations about it with lots of people before the day finally arrives, from your mam to your friends to taxi drivers.

This can definitely be a bit nerve-wracking – so what’s the best way to go about it?

Clare Lanigan of the Abortion Rights Campaign says a compassionate, kind approach towards people who are unsure about where they stand on the referendum is best.

The first step is to find out what they know about the issue – ask some questions, feel it out:

Something that has come up in a lot of conversations is that people just don’t know very much. There’s a lot of misinformation because although theoretically, we’re supposed to get adequate sex education, it really does depend on the school you were in. For some people, the only education they’ve ever had about abortion is someone coming to their school and telling them terrible scare stories with terrible pictures.

“It’s important to create a space where people feel safe to ask questions, and know that there are no stupid questions.”

If someone has firmly made up their mind, it’s probably best not to push it. But if somebody has concerns, listen to them, take them seriously, and see where you can set them straight.

A lot of people don’t know what the Eighth Amendment is, they don’t know what is meant by ‘repeal’, or even how illegal abortion is in Ireland currently. Some people assume that it’s legal if a woman’s health is in danger or in case of fatal foetal abnormalities, but it’s not. Unless they’ve been directly affected, most don’t realise how the Eighth affects all pregnancies.

So read up on the referendum and the issues surrounding it a little – don’t bamboozle people with facts and figures, but brush up on the basics so you can answer any questions that may arise.

It’s in no way essential to share your personal story, however reminding them that it is a personal issue can help. It’s happening already every day, just not here at home, and it affects every person in Ireland who can get pregnant.

Another thing that’s really helpful is telling people that a referendum like this is not asking them to judge whether abortion is right or wrong – people decide that for themselves if it’s something that they could do. Most people, even if they think abortion is wrong, don’t want to make that decision on someone else’s behalf. The referendum is about deciding if you want abortion to be safe and legal or unsafe and illegal.

So, to recap: Have the facts to hand, open the floor to questions, and most of all, be compassionate and understanding. Good luck!


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