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Women Tweet About Their Periods to the Irish Prime Minister in Protest of Abortion Law

The head of Ireland's government is receiving a heavy flow of menstrual tweets aimed at highlighting a campaign to change Ireland's restrictive abortion law, which criminalizes terminations even in cases of rape or incest.

by Sally Hayden
Nov 6 2015, 7:44pm

Imagen por Sally Hayden/VICE News

Women in Ireland have been tweeting the bloody, graphic, painful, and often just plain banal details of their menstrual cycles to Prime Minister Enda Kenny as part of a campaign to repeal the country's restrictive abortion law.

Abortion is a divisive issue in Ireland where — after a series of high-profile court cases and deaths, along with large demonstrations from both sides of the debate — the complete ban was only lifted in 2013. Now, terminating a pregnancy is allowed if the mother's life is in danger.

The 2013 abortion legislation was adopted following the death from septic shock of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian-born dentist who was not allowed to abort her dying fetus, a controversy that made international headlines and reopened the decades-long debate.

Kenny, a practicing Roman Catholic and the leader of the liberal-conservative Fine Gael party, was sent plastic fetuses and letters written in blood by pro-life campaigners for bringing in the limited reforms, and has said that any further changes on the issue will be left to the next government. His government's junior coalition partner, the Labor Party, has already said that it will campaign at the elections next year to allow abortion in cases such as rape, incest, and fatal fetal abnormality.

Calls for abortion law reform have gained momentum since Ireland chose to become the first country to adopt gay marriage in a referendum earlier this year, marking a major shift in what was once a strongly Catholic and socially conservative society.

Related: We Traveled Onboard the Irish 'Abortion Bus' That's Giving Illegal Pills to Women

"Since we know how much the Irish state cares about our reproductive parts… I think it's only fair that the women of Ireland let our leader know the full details of our menstrual cycle," comedian Grainne Maguire wrote in a tweet this week, kicking off a Twitter campaign targeting Kenny that has since gone viral.

Many women have been tweeting details of their menstrual cycles to the prime minister, with some criticizing Kenny for not responding.

Irish officials are reluctant to take on the abortion issue for fear of alienating conservative voters, despite a dramatic waning in recent years of the Catholic Church's influence, which had dominated politics in a country where divorce was still illegal just 20 years ago.

Related: 'I'm in Trouble': The Women Boarding Ireland's Illegal Abortion Bus

The current Twitter campaign comes on the back of a number of others, including the "abortion pill bus," which saw pro-choice campaigners drive a bus around Ireland distributing mifepristone and misoprostol, World Health Organization-approved medical abortion pills, to women who had requested them.

Activists are demanding the abolition of the Eighth Amendment of the Irish constitution, which enshrines the equal right to life of the mother and her unborn child, while their opponents demand it remain in place to safeguard all life.

Less than a quarter of Irish people believe abortion should be available in all circumstances, an RTE/Behaviour & Attitudes poll showed this week, though only 14 percent are against it under any circumstances.

Some 4,000 women women travel from Ireland to the UK each year to have an abortion, however, with a further 1,000 making the journey annually from Northern Ireland.

Related: Gay Marriage Is Legal but Abortion Is Still a Crime in Ireland — Even in Rape or Incest Cases

Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd

Reuters contributed to this report.