It was only after the founding of the IWU in 1975 that there was “a women`s liberation group comparable in size to the IWLM”. 105 Although the group used tactics similar to those of the IWLM, such as direct action and outreach, the IWU was arguably more politicized. 106 Contraception was a central mobilizing issue for this group. At a workshop on contraceptives organized by the group in 1975, it was agreed that if women had control over their bodies through access to contraceptives, they could gain more freedom and choice in terms of employment opportunities. In addition, the demand for contraception is linked to the “right of all women to self-determined sexuality”. 107 CAP, founded in the spring of 1976, grew out of the IWU workshop on contraception. 108 The organization also included members of other interested groups. For example, at a CAP meeting in June 1976 at the Buswell Hotel in Dublin, members of Women`s Aid, IFPA, social workers from North Dublin, the Women`s Liberation Movement, the Women`s Progressive/Political Association, Family Planning Services, the Labour Women`s National Council and Irish Women United attended, all women except Robin Cochran. Representatives of family planning services.
109 However, the driving force behind the campaign was essentially the driving force behind the campaign, which included the establishment of a store, Contraceptives Unlimited, to illegally sell non-medical contraceptives. Discussions surrounding the IWU contraceptive pill have evolved into rhetoric focused on class and geographic differences, women`s right to choose contraceptives, and a focus on the side effects of the pill. Because of this lack of legal contraceptives, many women use the pill when it is not suitable for them. In addition, the unavailability of contraceptives in rural areas means that women depend on sympathetic doctors or pharmacists. The current situation is intolerable. There is a dominant attitude among many doctors that you are lucky to get contraception, and they are reluctant to advise women what is the best method available. Some doctors still prescribe pills with an estrogen content of 80% and neglect to inform women that they might suffer from side effects such as thrush if they use the pill. 112 Reproductive rights in Ireland, including access to contraceptives and abortion, their legalisation, are a problem that disproportionately affects women but remains unresolved. Fully legalized only in 1993, contraception in Ireland has always been a point of contention in a so-called “Catholic country.” Although contraceptives can now be purchased legally in the Republic, the accessibility of birth control remains limited. However, the legal ban on abortion continues to criminalize abortion within the state and faces public demand for reform. A feature of our case study is the long-term continuation of activities that have violated or undermined the law in full view of the state.
Irish state bans on condom distribution coexisted with a sophisticated organized distribution network. The possibility of illegal distribution was an open secret. Nevertheless, it has been subject to limited, uneven and ambivalent interruptions by State officials. For most of our respondents, enforcement was a relatively minor concern. The history of Irish condom activism also reminds us that what is legally suppressed, unspoken, unacknowledged or prohibited by state law remains alive elsewhere.164 Thus, the history of the Irish prevention movement against constructions of illegality as a state of total dispossession shows that illegal practices can open up spaces for new exchanges and relationships. Although uneven, fragmentary or experimental, as some are. Their long persistence in illegality shows what is needed to struggle under conditions of “rigidity”,165 of “subsistence”.166 Here we have found de Certeau`s tactical concept useful for understanding some of the movement`s activities. For him, it was a tactic: for some, their confidence in negotiating legal restrictions grew as they became more experienced: “Over time, I kind of found my way and I really didn`t care, it was the truth.” 117 Others were not afraid of the consequences from the beginning. One interviewee described the movement as “young people who really aren`t afraid of the consequences, who do it just because it`s right.” 118 Some of our respondents identified themselves as the kind of people who took great pleasure in breaking the law for their own sake. In fact, for many members of this group, the motivation to continue participating in the movement diminished when it became “legal.” They were very interested in attracting the attention of state officials in particular.
But not everyone was ready to go that far. IFPA, in particular, was considered more conservative in its approach to the law at the time than FPS and its affiliated clinics: they tried to do so a bit more according to the book. We just thought, well, we can just do it, we thought they were talking too much and, you know, we weren`t afraid to take the steps. And I guess we didn`t know much about IFPA when we saw them as those kind of people, kind of a definite organization. FPS was pretty funky and did it in the simplest way, but do it.119 We agreed that with this blessed rhythm at the time the “safe period” arrived, we wish sex had never been invented. You see, if you were well informed, like us, you knew that not only should the husband not ejaculate, but the wife should not afford to have an orgasm. This while sharing the same bed. So different with the magic pill; I could say, “Well, not tonight if you don`t mind, but tomorrow everything will be fine.” And it would. There was an expectation and the question was whether a period would ever occur. And a husband who was depressed for months when I was pregnant again after all our care. 37 Meagher`s testimony highlights the difficult dilemma faced by some Irish doctors, and the use of the case of a woman with several children as an example was typical of the evidence for the legalization of contraception at the time.
However, it was clear that some doctors did not understand such cases and refused to prescribe the contraceptive pill. In 1966, journalist Monica McEnroy drew attention in Woman`s Way magazine to the plight of many Irish women who could not use contraceptives due to the dual legal and Catholic prohibition. According to newspaper correspondence about the pill, McEnroy had received letters from women across Ireland “who had asked their doctors about the pill and had been rejected.” 51 A woman who wrote to McEnroy explained, “I asked the priest if I could take the pill,” one woman told me, “and he said no, so I left. I`m afraid of it, what if this baby comes? His letter stunned me in two ways, threw me from page to page. I couldn`t relate to the fact that she spoke to the priest about her sex life. How could such a morbid approach to sexuality be adopted spiritually? And she said, “I`m gone,” as if she had nothing to do with the whole thing. 79 On 20 February 1985, a coalition of Fine Gael and Labour led by Dr Garret FitzGerald defeated the opposition Fianna Fail Conservative by 83 votes to 80. The new legislation made non-medical contraceptives (condoms and spermicides) available to persons over 18 years of age in pharmacies without a prescription; It has also enabled the distribution of these contraceptives to doctors` offices, hospitals and family planning clinics. Although it is still illegal to promote contraceptives and the use of the birth control pill remains restricted, the vote marked a major turning point in Irish history – the Catholic Church`s first defeat in a neck-and-neck battle with the government over social legislation. Around the same time, CAP members set up stalls in Cork to sell or distribute condoms to working-class women and draw attention to the possible consequences of the 1979 Act.
CAP was more openly disobedient to the law than the FPS: “We were more radical, we were doing things that nice middle-class people were doing in family planning and others just weren`t.” 146 This was made possible in part by the involvement of radical feminists who already had experience with bold public disobedience and, at least in this context, were less interested in a strategic confrontation with the status quo. But it was also possible because Contraceptives Unlimited completely decoupled the issue of political protest from service delivery and trade.