Belfast Telegraph

Liam Neeson backs campaign to change abortion law in Republic's referendum

By Mark Bain

Hollywood star Liam Neeson has thrown his weight behind the 'Yes' campaign as Ireland builds up to the May 25 referendum on abortion.

Writing in the Sunday Independent, the Ballymena actor said he has "witnessed Ireland becoming a nation that leads the world in social issues yet we still treat women as second-class citizens by taking away the basic right to make choices about their own bodies and if, and when, to have children.

"There are times when we must stand for what is right. When the obvious injustice of a situation demands that we do so. For me, the upcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment is one of those times. A time to stand up and be counted."

And Neeson has issued a passionate call for the men of Ireland to stand together and 'respect a woman's right to decide'.

He writes: "This is a moment when men must stand with women. Men owe a debt to women in Ireland. For too long we have at best stood by and at worst participated in a system that has stripped women of their human rights.

"Ireland has inflicted indignity and abuse on women for generations, and on a grand scale.

"In recent decades we have demonstrated the capacity to face the truth of such abuse, to own it and to do whatever we can to respond to it.

"But the Ireland of the Magdalene Laundries and Mother and Baby Homes is not another country, or a relic of some long distant past. Yes, gone are the days when our country used to drop our pregnant women and girls off at the gates of institutions that hid them behind high walls. Yet still we drop our girlfriends, wives, daughters, sisters and mothers to the departure gates at Dublin Airport, forcing them to travel to other countries to access basic health care services and denying them necessary aftercare upon their return. Ireland remains a country where we see women in crisis as a problem, to be exiled overseas instead of being cared for with respect and compassion here at home.

"It's time to end that. It's time to respect a woman's right to make decisions that are right for them and their families."

Mr Neeson has previously been vocal in his support for a change to the abortion law in Ireland.

Last year he stood down as president of his childhood boxing club, amid reports of a disagreement over his support for change.

And having travelled the world during his career, and seen suffering around the world in his role as a Unicef Goodwill Ambassador, he believes the time is now right for Ireland to stop denying women what he feels is a "basic human right".

"For years I have campaigned for children's rights on behalf of the United Nations and I have been proud of Ireland's commitment to this issue, but our denial of basic human rights to women and girls means that work is far from complete.

"I can understand why some men might feel that this is a women's issue and they should stay out of it. But this is a moment when men in Ireland must stand with the women in their lives by participating.

"In Ireland, men have complete control over their bodies. Women do not.

"Even if a woman has been raped, or her health could be damaged by a pregnancy, she has no control over what happens next.

"There's nothing wrong in not knowing everything there is to know about abortion.

"It's an extremely complicated issue and a deeply personal one. Amnesty International in Ireland is helping men in Ireland have conversations with their friends and loved ones and talking is the best way to understand and learn. It is precisely this kind of dialogue that will make the difference on referendum day, a chance to be a powerful force for change.

"On May 25 we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to care for the women of Ireland.

"It's time to respect women's rights to make decisions that are right for them and their families. It's time for us, as men, to stand with women."

Belfast Telegraph

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