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Blessed Be The Fruit: the holy war on Irish wombs

Savita Halappanavar, Dublin, 19th April, 2018. Graffiti artist Shirani Bolle paints with a portrait of Savita Halappanavar who died after doctors refused her an abortion in 2012. She died from sepsis after miscarrying her daughter. Her death shocked Ireland and brought new awareness and energy to the campaign to repeal anti abortion laws.

Eucharistic Procession, Cork, 18th June, 2017. Once the highlight of the Catholic calendar, the Eucharistic procession culminates in public prayers led by by the Archbishop. Attendance is now dwindling and even in the churches the average age of priests is 70-years-old. Religious tasks, such as daily prayers, once the preserve of men, are being carried out by middle aged women who make up the majority of congregants.

Mass Rock Prayers, Carlingford, 18th March, 2018: Siobhan kisses a statue of Mary after taking part in a nationwide prayer at Mass Rock sites to save the 8th Amendment. Mass rocks mark the places that priests held secret prayers when Catholics were persecuted by the British.

Saint Brigid, Dublin, 21st April, 2018. Repeal campaigner Megan Scott dressed as Saint Brigid, Ireland’s female patron, on Dublin's main shopping street. Saint Brigid's miracle was to cause pregnancy to vanish. It is thought modern Catholic scholars suppressed this part of Saint Brigid’s story.

Our Toil Doth Sweeten Others, Limerick, 13th April, 2018. This embroidered trade union style banner was created by artist Alice Maher. It reads ‘Our Toil Doth Sweeten Others’ and hangs at Eva International Art festival in Limerick. Throughout the campaign, women used art to express themselves. Conversations about abortion and women’s reproduction have traditionally been off limits in Ireland.

Coastal Rosary, Benone, County Londonderry, 26th November, 2018. Catholic students carry a statue of Mary as part of a co-ordinated nationwide coastal rosary prayer to stop the evil of abortion coming ashore.

The Nuptial Act, Belfast, 15th June, 2017. The Catholic church controls sex education in Irish schools, often this means a focus on pregnancy but not on sex. In many cases abstinence is taught instead of contraception. In this picture new mothers, aged 18-years-old, mess around after learning how to put on condoms at a sex-education class run by a charity and staffed by volunteers.

The Special Ones, Dublin, 22nd June, 2017. A father shows off tattoos of his children on an uncharacteristically hot day in Dublin. Ireland legalised contraception in 1980 but some Irish families still believe contraception is an offence against God and nature.

Katie, Wicklow Mountains, 15th June, 2017. Eleven-year-old Katie is an altar server, traditionally a route to the priesthood for boys. ‘I would like to be a priest’ Katie said ‘but I’ve never seen a woman giving mass, not even on the television’. The Vatican said in 2010 it regards the full and equal participation of women in the church ‘a grave sin’.

Cassandras, Limerick, 13th April, 2018. Giant figures representing Ireland’s dark treatment of women wait to parade through Limerick city in a silent appeal to residents to change the law against abortion. Artist Alice Maher put mirror like discs on their heads ‘to reflect back to Irish society it’s own flagrant hypocrisy’.

Croagh Patrick, County Mayo, 26th August 2017. Aidan begs forgiveness for the sins of men that may have resulted in abortion at the summit of holy mountain Croagh Patrick.

Home Birth, Dublin, 16th June, 2017. Catriona Kenny gives birth to her son Tom, while her two-year-old daughter Nora and husband Derek look on in Dublin. Some of the amendment’s consequences are unexpected. Women lose autonomy over their bodies as soon as they become pregnant. Because doctors have an equal responsibility to foetus and mother, codified in law, they discourage home births - and Ireland has the lowest home birth rate in Europe.

Lamb of God, Cork, 18th June, 2017. A girl is led through Cork during the Eucharistic procession a year before her confirmation into the Catholic church. Once the highlight of the religious calendar bringing the whole city onto the streets and onto their knees, attendance is now dwindling. The average age of priests in Ireland is now 70-years-old.

The Red Nun, Dublin, 16th June, 2017. A nun practices hurling, an Irish ball game, in the monastery grounds. This closed order of Redemptoristine nuns say five daily prayers, including a prayer for the preservation of life. The Catholic Church of Ireland called on followers to work actively to resist change to abortion laws.

Rosary of the Unborn, Knock, 9th May 2018. The rosary, with plastic foetus’s inside a tear drop-shaped bead, is for sale from the Ohio-based Holy Love organisation, in Knock, Ireland. The website declares “...each Hail Mary prayed from a loving heart will rescue one of these innocent lives from death by abortion."

Holy Love, Knock, 29th August, 2017. Declan holds a doll that replicates the size and weight of a six month old baby. The doll is lent to women considering abortion to give them a sense of what a real baby is like. Declan runs the Holy Love centre in Knock, a major Catholic pilgrimage site in Ireland.

Brides of Christ, Cork, 18th June, 2017. Eight year old girls dressed as ‘Brides of Christ’ kiss rose petals that represent Christ’s blood before scattering them on the floor. First communion is still a rite-of-passage for girls in Ireland, despite falling attendance of daily mass from 90% in 1984 to 18% in 2011.

The Hated Eighth, Limerick, 13th April, 2018. Social media campaigning was a key strategy for young people involved in the repeal campaign. Artists performed this piece at the site of an old Magdalene laundry in Limerick, where pregnant unmarried women used to be sent in shame until they gave birth. The laundries, which operated across Ireland between the 18th century and 20th century, were run by nuns, while the women had to work without pay. Their babies were often forcibly adopted or died in appalling conditions.

The Sin of Male Lust, County Mayo, 26th August, 2017. Pro life campaigners say Hail Marys and ask forgiveness for the sin of male lust at a holy shrine in County Mayo.

Repeal, Dublin, 30th September, 2017. Jumpers with simple white lettering on a black background became symbolic of the campaign. Their quiet message was a public call for a change to the law without shocking or provoking. This became a key tactic for campaigners who found many people unwilling to discuss the subject.

Tropical Popical, Dublin, 20th March, 2018. Nail bar owner Andrea Horan wears a Repeal the 8th badge. She encourages her nail technicians to wear Repeal t-shirts to encourage conversations with customers on the difficult subject of abortion.

Do You Need An Abortion?, Dublin, 30th September, 2017. 'Do you need an abortion?’ t-shirts advertise a website where women can get information about abortion pills and the best way to travel to the UK for a termination at the annual March For Choice.

Every year 3000 Irish women, unable to get abortions in their own country, travel to Britain to end pregnancies. Terminations are illegal, even in cases of rape. In 2012 Savita Halappanavar died after doctors refused her an abortion. Her death shocked Ireland and brought new awareness and energy to the campaign to repeal anti abortion laws. Suddenly, the fight to win a referendum on abortion was not just about women taking control of their bodies, it was also about changing the role of women in this traditional, Catholic country. On May 25th, 2018, the country voted overwhelmingly to renounce their abortion laws.