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Talking about the referendum

  • How to get started
    Start with a story. Personal stories are great but they can be understandably difficult or problematic to share. If you’d prefer instead to share a story that you’ve heard, you can find our bank of member stories here and there are more stories available online here: In Her Shoes,, (also available here on soundcloud). But stories don’t have to be about an abortion care experience directly. They can also be about how you are experiencing the political debate, saying something like “It feels like all the conversations about this are so extreme, what do you think?” They can also be about having these conversations with other people, “You know I was talking to my mum about the referendum, she didn’t even know that there was one; I was talking to my friend Alisa about the repeal and we ended up having a really good conversations about it, made me think of lots of things I hadn’t before.” Do have a story you’d like to share? Please consider sharing any type, about your experience directly with abortion care or conversations you’ve had, with us privately at
  • Get grounded in values
    Take the principle “don’t assume bad intent” to the next level. See the person you’re talking to as smart and kind - they’ve come to their position, just like you, because they think it’s the most logical one. They believe that they are a good person. Sometimes when we have discussions with people on difficult topics this gets tossed out the window, so people feel attacked. Many conversation guides go along the lines of “Anger → Hope → Action” but research shows that this is actually an ineffective way to have conversations that we hope will result in some type of transformation or action. Focus on finding your common values and go back to them whenever things get tough. When we engage our values we recognise that the other person cares about doing the right thing, like we all do, and we can start in a positive frame together. So now we have stories and common values to start - how do you actually say what you want to about the referendum?
  • How to say what you need to say
    Many who believe abortion is wrong have heard facts and statistics that prove that the eighth amendment is denying healthcare to pregnant women. Why then haven’t they believed them? Because of the way information was presented to them. Absorbing information is psychological - we listen more if it’s coming from someone who we trust. So some good things to keep in mind: - Don’t focus on whose right or whose wrong. - Admit that it’s a complex and difficult issue out loud to the person your speaking to. Say that the choice that you’ve come to was a hard one, full of deliberation and not arrived at easily, but ultimately, this is why you feel that it’s the right one. - Most of all it just takes practice! Talk with people who disagree with you as much as you can. In today’s world there are so many filter bubbles so we don’t even realise how shielded and unpracticed we are from these conversations. But it’s a skill like anything else - start small and before you know it you’ll be a pro. Though you should generally steer away from too many “facts” and statistics, productive conversations will of course need to have some of them. Every conversation will be different, but these are some points that commonly come up and ways you can respond: - Overall, the main focus should be repealing this amendment from the constitution. All other concerns, including the legislation that will eventually permit abortion care in Ireland, if the eighth amendment is repealed - will have their time and space in the future. For the moment we have the opportunity to change some of the most restrictive abortion laws (and penalties) in the world which create unsafe and unhealthy conditions for women - and this is what we need to stay focused on. - Keeping this amendment won’t stop women from having an abortion, but it will stop them from doing it safely. - The reality is that abortion is a present and permanent part of Irish life. All the Eighth Amendment does is deny access to abortion for people with less means, the young, poor, disabled, abused or otherwise vulnerable. It also brings an added layer of secrecy and shame for those who choose to access abortion. - Women in this conversation are often framed as frivolous, irresponsible, or that the decision to have an abortion is for convenience. There are many different reasons that those who are pregnant would seek an abortion. Just a few of them are: -- Contraception is never 100% effective. Many women use contraception responsibly, and still become pregnant. 54% of all the women who bought abortion pills online were actually using contraception when they became pregnant. [1] -- They are already parents. They know what it means to make this decision. Many people are surprised to hear that 63% of Irish women buying abortion pills online are already mothers [1]. These are women who already have children and love their children. They are making a decision about whether they have the financial, emotional and psychological ability to have another child. These women know what it is to be pregnant, to give birth and to raise a child. Knowing all this, they have decided that they cannot have another child. If we trust a woman to be a mother, we have to trust her decisions about whether she is able to have another child. -- There is a story of women who would use abortion as a form of contraception. Though this is not out of the realm of possibility, this is almost surely an extremely rare case - an exception not the rule. Talk about health care, maternity care, and abortion care: - Use the word "decision" instead of "choice". - Talk about a woman who is pregnant versus a pregnant woman (again, this humanises the woman). - Stay away from politicised words like pro-life or pro-choice if possible. - Stay away from lingo and jargon. And don’t talk about the legislation that might come after the referendum, as it can unnecessarily muddle the conversation. - The high cost of accessing abortion care means that people who don’t have the finances or the ability to travel are the ones most affected by the Eighth Amendment. These are people with disabilities, low incomes and less means, people on social welfare, people in abusive relationships, migrant women, people in State care, the young, and otherwise vulnerable. These are also the people for whom an unplanned pregnancy can be most devastating. - Repealing the Eighth Amendment does not mean that people who are opposed to abortion will have to have abortions. It just means that, exactly like the situation we currently have, women will continue to make private decisions about abortion care which are extremely difficult and relevant only to their own personal lives. The only difference will be that women will be able to do this in Ireland, with their own doctors’ support and without a large financial burden. Sources: [1] Evidence given by Dr. Abigail Aiken to the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment.
  • The facts
    "The question being asked is not These sites have great resources about the 8th: 4 reasons you should vote yes on May 25th (even if you disagree with abortion) (article) Pregnancy after rape: The first step is to remove the Eighth Taken from Amnesty International’s — Ireland’s abortion laws are among the most restrictive in the world. — The overwhelming majority of people in Ireland want to see access to abortion expanded (87%). — No one under the age of 53 has had the opportunity to vote on the Eighth Amendment. — Criminalising abortion does not decrease the number of abortions, it just makes those abortions less safe. — A decisive majority of people in Ireland want abortion to be decriminalised (72%). — Since 1980, at least 170,000 women and girls have had to travel to other countries to access abortion services that should be their right at home. — Travelling for an abortion is not an option for everyone. The estimated average cost of travelling to the UK for a first trimester abortion is at least €1,000, including clinic fees, flights and accommodation. — For women and couples who receive a diagnosis of a pregnancy with fatal foetal impairment, the average cost of accessing an abortion is much more, as the treatment can cost up to €1500 and the stay abroad can last 4 – 5 days. — Human rights experts recommend that abortion be made available on request, at least in early pregnancy, as best practice and in line with international human rights law. — The majority of people in Ireland (60%) believe that pregnant people should have access to abortion on request, either outright or within specific time limits. — 90% of abortions occur within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Only 1.5% occur after 21 weeks. (Most importantly, under our restrictive laws, women are forced to wait longer than they would normally if they could safely access abortion care due to travel, cost, etc.) — Restrictive laws do not lower abortion rates. The lowest rates of abortion are found in states where it is readily available as part of a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health services. — Contraceptive use and sexuality education can contribute to a reduction in the number of abortions, but they will never eliminate the need for abortion services.
  • Videos
    Check back here soon - we will have videos of members working through these conversations and persuasive videos that you can share.
Before heading off to the next section we really recommend you pause here to consider whether you need more resources. The next page is an in depth guide and will be much more useful if you've already had 1 (or more) conversations.
Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good - get out there and have 1 talk and then check back in to level up your skills later!
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