Press Release by Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. (Speaking of Ireland Making England the Legal Destination for Abortion), 13th April 2017
Not Designed for Comfort’: IMELDA Discusses the ‘Tampon Tax’
On Sunday 9th April 2017, the pro-choice direct-action feminist performance group, Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A., responded to the British government’s bequeathing of £250,000 of the so-called ‘tampon tax’ funds to anti-choice charity ‘Life.’ Staging an intervention by the sanitary product shelf in a Hackney Tesco store, the group demonstrated their outrage that money from the tampon tax was given to the biased anti-choice charity ‘Life’, which is ‘against abortion’ and perpetuates misinformation by wrongly linking abortion with breast cancer. In this action, Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. parody sanitary brand adverts to highlight the irony that taxes from these brands, which often market themselves on enabling women to be uninhibited by their reproductive biology, are being used to restrict reproductive autonomy.
In the action, members of Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A., posing as consumers, stage a discussion beside the sanitary product shelf in the store, while another member cheekily labeled all the sanitary products on display with stickers that stated ‘WARNING: ANTI-CHOICE PRODUCT’ and ‘#BLOODYOUTRAGE’. Through the action Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. demonstrate how they no longer have a consumer choice given that the taxes from the products they need monthly when they get their periods are being exploited to fund an anti-choice organization. Highlighting the lack of parity in existing UK laws, they question why money from the ‘tampon tax’ is not been given to Abortion Support Network, a charity who offer financial aid and support to women from Northern Ireland unable to afford to travel to Britain and pay privately for abortion, as unlike other UK citizens they are denied access to free abortion services on the NHS. In a demonstration of their disgust at the use of ‘tampon tax’ money to fund biased an anti-choice organization, the individuals in the video declare that all available sanitary products no longer ‘suit my flow’ and are not a ‘comfortable fit’, coming to the conclusion that the only seeming choice now ‘is to free bleed for comfort and conscience.’
Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. supports choice for women. Abolish the tampon tax and do not use it to fund Anti-Choice groups.
About SPEAKING OF I.M.E.L.D.A. (Speaking of Ireland Making England the Legal Destination for Abortion)
Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. is a direct-action feminist performance group that seeks to challenge the ongoing problem of Ireland Making England the Legal Destination for Abortion. We operate against the shaming and silencing of women living in the north and south of Ireland who have had abortions.
The name Imelda was used as a code-name by women traveling to England for abortions between 1986 and 1995. This was necessary since the Information Cases in the Republic of Ireland in 1986 made it a criminal offence to travel abroad for an abortion and to provide information and referrals for abortion services. However, during these 9 years, approximately 6,000 women from Ireland, north and south, still traveled to England for an abortion. The Imelda code name enabled these women to keep their plans secret to avoid legal action being taken against them.
In 1995, giving information about abortion abroad and traveling for an abortion again became legal activities. However, since then an average of 12 women a day have continued to travel from Ireland, north and south, to England for abortions. Apart from the considerable expense and stress of having to travel abroad for a medical procedure, these women are often denied follow-up after-care. In addition, in 2013, the Republic of Ireland implemented a 14-year prison sentence for women who have abortions in Ireland illegally. This has dire consequences for women who take pro-abortive medication because they cannot afford to travel or are not permitted to leave the country. In speaking the name I.M.E.L.D.A. we wish to act in solidarity with those who seek to counteract the inhumanity of state legislation, which denies women the right to choose what happens to their own bodies and in their own lives.
Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A is based in London. We exist in solidarity with pro-choice groups in Ireland and throughout the world who fight draconian patriarchal regimes. As members of the Irish Diaspora living in London, Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. members are inspired by the momentum of current pro-choice movements in Ireland and express their solidarity and support with all those dedicating their time and energy towards creating a fairer future for women in Ireland.
Highlights of other actions by Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. include:
- Unofficially opening the St. Patrick’s Day Parade London with a pro-choice message – video footage here
- Chaining themselves to pillars outside the G.P.O. in Dublin, during RTE’s ‘Road to the Rising’ event – video footage here
- ‘Knicker-bombing’ Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, during a political fundraising dinner in London last October. Footage of this high-profile action went viral and garnered international media attention
- Confronting Jeremy Hunt, English Secretary of State for Health, at a Sainsbury’s supermarket to highlight the lack of access to free, safe, legal and local abortion for women in Northern Ireland. Video footage here
You can see further Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. actions by browsing their YouTube channel