“The frame around Ireland’s abortion rights campaign was about compassion and how Ireland should be the compassionate face of Europe,” said Marie Berry, a political scientist at the University of Denver who has studied the Irish campaign. “That it is more compassionate than the UK as the UK has become increasingly conservative, especially under the Tory government. Being in the EU represents a progressive Europe.”
But perhaps the key to the movement’s success was the combination of that compelling message with the organizational experience of more radical feminist groups. “What shocked me when I was researching there with activists was that actually the organizing knot of the entire abortion rights campaign ‘Repeal the 8th’ came from anarcho-feminist movements, which were more rooted in environmental movements than the liberal women’s rights movement,” he said. dr. Berry. “The bulk of the people who voted for it were obviously not affiliated with the more left-wing organizing nodes. But that was really the heart of the movement that made it possible.”
In Argentina, the Ni Una Menos (“Not one woman less”) movement also combined sustained, long-standing organization with a framework that placed abortion rights in the broader context of a just society, imagining the lack of access to safe, legal abortion. as only one part of the wider problem of violence against women. A 2018 bill to legalize the procedure failed, but in 2020 the country legalized abortion, making Argentina the largest country in Latin America to do so.
In the United States, on the other hand, legal abortion has been the status quo since the Roe decision in 1973, which made it a difficult target for that kind of persistent mass organization.
“I think the indigenous mobilizing, one of the more progressive kinds of racial justice, Occupy, all kinds of left-wing nodes within those movements, haven’t put abortion at the center of their advocacy because, constitutionally, it’s been more or less a solved problem for years. 70,” Berry said. And for other organizations that focus on the intersection of reproductive rights with race and class, “abortion has always been there, but it’s not the only requirement,” she said.
Centrist organizations and Democratic politicians, on the other hand, have often framed abortion as an issue of unfortunate but necessary health care that should be “safe, legal and rare,” and have focused activism on access issues. That was often vital for women in rural areas or states where the cumbersome regulations had made abortion virtually impossible in practice, but it didn’t generate the kind of massive identity-based attraction that has been effective in countries like Ireland.