Abortion is still illegal in Ireland, as it was during 1984 when the Kerry Babies scandal raged forth from the intertwined powers of church and state. It was a cruel culmination of a logic that imposes shame on women’s bodies, on their sexual activity whilst excusing men, and on their ability to choose to not follow through with an unwanted pregnancy. For all the difference between then and now, on the day that I saw And the Rope Still Tugging Her Feet, #TwoWomenTravel was trending. As Caroline Burns Cooke (the writer and performer of the monologue) recounted the story of the young woman at the centre of the 1984 scandal, two other young women were, in 2016, sharing their story of having to travel from Ireland to the UK in order to secure a safe and legal abortion.
Organisations in Ireland and elsewhere are still struggling to reverse the regressive policies that force women from their home countries in search of help, or into back-alley alternatives. Art and performance can have a powerful impact on public conversation, and the direct action of groups like Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A (Ireland Making England the Legal Destination for Abortion) contributes to a gathering clamour around the repeal of the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution, which prohibits safe options for women. Even the UN has ruled that Ireland must provide “accessible procedures for pregnancy termination” in order to avoid impinging on the human rights of its citizens. Even the Irish Minister for Health thanked the two women who tweeted their journey for highlighting the debate, although time will tell what difference it might make. In a worrying sign of the global polarity of the argument, the vile American blogger Courtney Kirchoff has already decried their documentation of the journey.
As a piece of theatre, the performance is a dissection of a historical abuse of power and victimisation of a young woman devoid of options. But it has resonance now, as a precursor to the ongoing battle to secure safe choices for women, in Ireland and around the world. (LC)
And The Rope Still Tugging Her Feet ran at Gilded Balloon Teviot until August 29th - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/and-the-rope-still-tugging-her-feet
The Kerry Babies Case: http://www.thejournal.ie/kerry-babies-case-30-years-on-1413918-Apr2014/
Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A (Direct Action Group): https://twitter.com/speakofIMELDA
UN Ruling on Irish Human Rights Violations: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/09/ireland-abortion-laws-violated-human-rights-says-un
Courtney KirchoffSends Open Letter: http://irishpost.co.uk/american-novelist-slams-pro-choice-campaigners-two-women-travel-scathing-blog-post/