The 8th is a documentary chronicling the long fight to repeal the anti-abortion law in Ireland. It follows the political activity of some of the women who worked tirelessly to give the pro-choice movement traction. Led by veteran activist Ailbhe Smyth, the group’s efforts led to the founding of the Abortion Rights Campaign and culminated in the 2018 referendum that gave the Irish population a chance to overturn the restrictive law.
Abortion was already illegal in Ireland when, almost 40 years ago, a group of pro-life demonstrators pushed for an even stricter law that would grant an equal right to life to the mother and her unborn child. Following a referendum, an eighth amendment to the constitution of Ireland was passed in 1983, restricting women’s rights further and attaching even greater stigma to the subject.
Over the years, the law was challenged continuously as it failed to support women even when they found themselves in extremely vulnerable positions. One particular case caused uproar, when a teenager was raped and denied abortion in 1992. She was ultimately granted the right to abort on the grounds that she was suicidal, but it was clear to pro-choice campaigners that the law lacked a humane aspect and that it had to allow for the complexity of each individual’s case and personal struggle.
Whilst clearly siding with the pro-choice faction, the film does keep the debate alive by giving space to the views of pro-life campaigners and listing the arguments they used to dismantle the opposition’s points. The speakers questioning the movement to repeal range from strict conservatives to people on the fence who can see the benefits and disadvantages of both sides of the question.
The 8th has great value as historic documentation and it manages to bring to life the personal stories that gave fuel to the pro-choice struggle without shying away from the other side of the argument. Informative and effective, the feature is also a great example of how ordinary people can come together and rewrite history through sheer determination.
The 8th is released digitally on demand on 25th May 2021.
Watch the trailer for The 8th here: