Thousands march in Dublin against Irish abortion laws

Protesters hold up placards as they take part in the March for Choice, calling for the legalising of abortion in Ireland after the referendum announcement, in Dublin on Saturday. (AFP)
Updated 01 October 2017
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Thousands march in Dublin against Irish abortion laws

DUBLIN: Thousands of demonstrators marched in Dublin on Saturday in favor of liberalising Ireland’s tight abortion laws ahead of a planned referendum on the fiercely-debated issue.
Protesters chanted, “My body, my choice” and waved placards reading “Not the church, not the state: women should decide their fate,” as they headed through the capital toward the parliament.
Linda Kavanagh, a spokeswoman from the Abortion Rights Campaign which organized the rally, told AFP: “The message today is ‘time to act’ because we’ve waited for a long time for a change.
“We want full repeal. We can’t support exceptions and only a hundred people allowed to get access to abortion.”
Keishia Taylor, a spokeswoman for the organization ROSA (For Reproductive Rights, told AFP: “I think today is going to be a huge turnout, a turning point.”
Campaigners were expecting 30,000 to attend, but the police declined to give a crowd estimate.
Abortion has always been illegal in Ireland and in 1983 an eighth amendment was added to the constitution after a referendum, giving equal rights to the life of the unborn child and the mother.
The law was changed three decades later to allow terminations when the mother’s life is at risk, following public outrage at the death of a pregnant woman in 2012 who was refused an abortion.
In the face of mounting public pressure, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Tuesday announced plans for a referendum on the issue to be held in May or June 2018, ahead of a visit by Pope Francis in August.

Ireland is still deeply divided over the issue.
A recent poll by Ipsos/MRBI found 67 percent of respondents were opposed to abortion in general but that 76 percent were in favor of legalizing it cases of rape.
Varadkar, who trained as a doctor, has called the current laws “too restrictive.”
Varadkar has said he would support abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities but is not supporting wider liberalization.
Thousands of Irish women currently travel abroad for abortions every year, mainly to England.
A “March for Choice” took place in London outside the Irish embassy on Saturday.
The upcoming vote has rallied those on both sides of the debate, including activists seeking to keep the current legislation in place.
In central Dublin, a small number of activists opposed to abortion handed out leaflets on Saturday, something they intend to do every week from now on.
“The country is very polarized at the moment, so what we try to do now is to reach people on the fence, who haven’t made up their minds yet,” said organizer Alan Keena.

The Irish government has already sought to gauge public opinion, setting up a Citizens’ Assembly which between November and April debated the eighth amendment.
Summing up their discussions, a majority of the 99 members recommended legalizing abortion in a wide range of circumstances.
A parliamentary committee has also been examining the abortion law, but on both sides of the debate there is mistrust of officials’ approach.
“The wording of the referendum will have a large bearing on the outcome and my instinct is that there will be compromise, there has to be, because there are 22 people from all sides on that committee,” said Anna McKenna, 66, a retired teacher on Saturday’s march.
Although the pro-abortion camp reacted positively to the referendum announcement, there is suspicion that MPs continue to be heavily influenced by the church in the mainly Catholic country.
Unlike the referendum which saw Ireland vote in favor of same-sex marriage in May 2015, no politicians have yet taken a strong position calling for greater abortion access.
Irish media has reacted similarly, reluctant to take a bold stance on an issue which has divided Irish society.


Accused Russian agent Butina poised to plead guilty -US court papers

In this April 21, 2013, file photo, Maria Butina, leader of a pro-gun organization in Russia, speaks to a crowd during a rally in support of legalizing the possession of handguns in Moscow, Russia. (AP)
Updated 13 min 32 sec ago
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Accused Russian agent Butina poised to plead guilty -US court papers

  • In a Dec. 8, 2016, class project at American University, she gave a presentation titled “What Might President Trump’s Foreign Policy Be Toward Russia?” and listed several of Russia’s policy objectives

WASHINGTON: Accused Russian agent Maria Butina, suspected of trying to infiltrate the National Rifle Association and influence US policy toward Russia, is expected to plead guilty this week following a deal between her lawyers and US prosecutors, according to court filings on Monday.
Exactly how the deal will be structured for Butina was not immediately clear. US District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington scheduled a hearing for Wednesday.
CNN reported on Monday that Butina had already begun to cooperate with prosecutors, citing one source familiar with the matter. A representative for the US Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the case.
ABC News first reported that Butina would cooperate with prosecutors.
Butina, a former American University graduate student, had previously pleaded not guilty to US charges in July that she was acting as an agent of the Russian government and conspiring to take actions on Russia’s behalf.
Prosecutors have accused her of working with a Russian official and two US citizens to try to infiltrate the powerful NRA lobby group that has close ties to Republican politicians including President Donald Trump, and influence Washington’s policy toward Moscow.
Butina’s lawyers previously identified the Russian official as Alexander Torshin, a deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who was hit with US Treasury Department sanctions in April.
One of the two Americans mentioned in the prosecutors’ criminal complaint was Paul Erickson, a conservative US political activist who was dating Butina. Neither Erickson nor Torshin has been accused by prosecutors of wrongdoing.
Butina’s cooperation will mainly focus on telling investigators about the role of Erickson and her interactions with Russian officials, CNN reported.
The case against Butina is being prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office in Washington and the National Security Division, and not US Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US election and any coordination between Moscow and Trump campaign members.
The government’s complaint against Butina did not explicitly mention Trump’s campaign. Trump has denied any collusion with Moscow occurred.
Reuters previously reported, however, that Butina was a Trump supporter who bragged at parties in Washington that she could use her political connections to help get people jobs in the Trump administration.
In a Dec. 8, 2016, class project at American University, she gave a presentation titled “What Might President Trump’s Foreign Policy Be Toward Russia?” and listed several of Russia’s policy objectives, according to a copy reviewed by Reuters.
Whether she could help shed any light on contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia is not known.
Moreover, the prosecutors in her case have previously made mistakes, including erroneously accusing Butina of offering sex in exchange for a position in a special interest group. The errors could possibly have helped give Butina more leverage in reaching a plea deal.