The US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that guaranteed the right to abortion, will set back reproductive rights for Americans by decades. Other hard-earned freedoms may come under threat. To regain — and keep — these basic liberties, rights campaigners, social justice activists and their allies will need to rethink abortion advocacy, build far broader grassroots movements across age, race and regional divides and mobilize more voters. They can begin by studying Ireland’s experience.
Orla O’Connor is director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland and one of three co-directors of the Together For Yes civil society campaign for the provision of legal abortion services in Ireland. Along with Grainne Griffin of Abortion Rights Campaign and Ailbhe Smyth, convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, O’Connor built a movement that secured an unequivocal victory in 2018, when more than 66% of voters backed a move to abolish the eighth amendment to the Irish constitution, which gave equal rights to the unborn and the pregnant person and acted as an effective ban on abortion. The conversation, which took place before the Supreme Court ruling, has been edited for length and clarity.