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Archiving Reproductive Health

Digital Preservation of Reproductive Health Resources:
Archiving the 8th

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Archiving Reproductive Health

On 25th May 2018, Irish citizens voted to remove the controversial ‘8th Amendment’ to the Irish Constitution, opening the way for the introduction of legislation governing the termination of pregnancy in the State.

The lead-up to the referendum included a number of campaigns from grassroots organisations and volunteers, and took place primarily over social media. In particular, a number of initiatives emerged whose aim was to tell stories of personal experiences of abortion. These initiatives collected and published stories from ordinary women, giving a voice to a previously silent group, and developing a public capacity to empathise with their experiences.

‘Digital Preservation of Reproductive Health Resources: Archiving the 8th’ (Archiving Reproductive Health) intends to provide long-term preservation and access to the many at-risk archives generated by grassroots women’s reproductive health movements during the campaign. There is no consensus on the best practice for archiving social media posts, hosted as they are on a variety of platforms each with their own rules about exporting and reposting content elsewhere. The rich record of how this referendum campaign unfolded, and of how volunteers and community groups contributed to the national conversation, is at real risk, therefore, of being lost to us forever as social media accounts close, platforms change or go out of business or we simply lose track of where the information exists.

The Archiving Reproductive Health project aims to:

  • Ingest material from the six collaborating organisations for long term preservation in the DRI
  • Develop best practice for archiving social media
  • Create a registry of at-risk reproductive health archives and support further ingest to the DRI
  • Carry out social science research into best practice, ethics and legalities of archiving this material
  • Provide training and expertise to reproductive health archives in archival best practice
  • Collect and preserve additional material on the topic from the public

The project is funded by a grant of €383,481.00 from the Wellcome Trust and is running over 36 months from 1st January 2021. It is led by Trinity College Dublin, Maynooth University and the Royal Irish Academy in collaboration with a number of additional content partners.

Project Partners and Organisational Data Sets

  • Irish Qualitative Data Archive (IQDA)
  • Together For Yes
  • The Abortion Rights Campaign
  • The Coalition To Repeal the Eighth Amendment
  • Terminations for Medical Reasons (TMFR)
  • In Her Shoes: Women of the Eighth

Research Data Sets

  • Re(al) Productive Justice Project http://realproductivejustice.com
  • Physician Advocacy and Reproductive Rights in Ireland  (Researcher Sadie Bergen)
  • Repeal the Eighth and Reproductive Rights: Organiser Interviews, (Aileen O’Carroll, David Landy, & Máire Ní Mhórdha)

Core Collections

In March 2022, ARH published collections of design and publicity material from activist groups, as well as a sequence of stories from the popular Facebook page ‘In Her Shoes’, with more to follow. ‘In Her Shoes’ is a page where people anonymously shared stories of their experiences of being unable to access abortion in Ireland. Research data collections in the form of oral history interviews with medics, campaigners, and women’s rights activists were also published. These provide important records of the lived experiences of activists and people affected by issues of reproductive inequality in Ireland.
The project will be continuously publishing material over the course of its operations in 2022 and 2023. Much of the material will already be familiar to the public from the 2018 referendum campaign, but the scheduled publication of administrative documents such as meeting agendas, strategic plans and annual reports will give the public richer and deeper context, as well as providing an invaluable resource for researchers.

The key stakeholder organisations that ARH is collecting material from are as follows:

Abortion Rights Campaign

This collection covers three of the Marches for Choice organised by the Abortion Rights Campaign, an all-Ireland campaign for free, safe and legal abortion in Ireland, founded in 2013. ARC was one of the three organisations that made up Together for Yes, the national campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment in 2018. The collection includes photographs and videos from the Marches for Choice held in 2016, 2017 and 2018, as well as design assets such as posters, flyers and leaflets. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.m9012j507.

Together for Yes

This collection contains public-facing material such as posters, logos and flyers created by Together for Yes, the national campaign for a Yes vote in the campaign to repeal the Eighth in 2018. Together for Yes was made up of representatives of three organisations, ARC, the National Women’s Council and the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth. The graphic design of the publicity material was designed by Language Communications. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.nv93js94h.

Coalition to Repeal the Eighth

The Coalition to Repeal the Eighth is a broad umbrella organisation intended to bring together a wide range of civil society organisations that supported the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. The Coalition was one of the three organisations that made up Together for Yes. The collection includes publicity materials such as logos, images of merchandise and posters for public events hosted by the Coalition in the period 2015-2018. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.nz80kp78c.

Terminations for Medical Reasons

Terminations for Medical Reasons is an organisation that supports women, parents and families following diagnosis of a foetal anomaly, help destigmatise termination of pregnancy & campaign for legal change. TFMR are a member of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth and played a crucial role in the 2018 referendum. The collection includes publicity materials such as online banners, logos and press releases from the period 2015-2018. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.ns06hx10g.

In Her Shoes: Women of the Eighth

This collection contains links to a Facebook page where women shared their experiences of being refused healthcare, barriers to access, the experiences of travel for healthcare abroad, illegally ordering pills online, and the emotional impact of these experiences. As a resource, it shares women’s stories and allows us to learn from them as a society. The stories captured the reality for many women living under the Eighth Amendment and offered an insight into the difficulties surrounding the illegality of abortion. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.wm11nd02p.

Posters and City Streets: The Linguistic Landscape of the Eighth Amendment Referendum Campaign – Photos

This is a visual collection containing 432 images of signage from the 2018 referendum on whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment. It was collected during the week before the vote itself (May 2018) and includes images of campaign posters, graffiti, stickers and banners from a number of locations across the country. These images were taken by Louis Strange as part of his PhD research into the “linguistic landscape” of the 2018 referendum campaign, which looks at the use of language in public space in the lead-up to the vote. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.ww72r301c.

Physician Advocacy and Reproductive Rights in Ireland: Doctors for Choice – Oral history interviews

This collection is comprised of oral history interviews conducted in 2019 by Sadie Bergen, a doctoral candidate in an interdisciplinary social science and public health program. The interviews are with current and former committee members of Doctors for Choice, an Irish pro-choice physician advocacy group. Physicians discuss how they became involved in reproductive rights advocacy; their impressions of the role of physicians in Irish abortion politics; their knowledge of Doctors for Choice’s changing strategies or priorities; and their subjective understanding of physician advocacy. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.z3173r875-1.

Re(al) Productive Justice Project: Gender and Disabilities – Oral history interviews

Re(al) Productive Justice Project: Gender and Disabilities is a disability rights and reproductive justice project based in NUI Galway. Disabled people are often denied the right to make reproductive decisions, including decisions about fertility, contraception, pregnancy, childbirth and parenting. This project explores the legal regulation and the real life experiences of disabled people in Ireland in making reproductive decisions by inviting disabled people to tell their stories of making, or being denied the opportunity to make, reproductive choices for themselves. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.ws85q6171-1.

RetweetThe8th: Twitter dataset from the 2018 Referendum

This dataset was created by researcher Emmet Ó Bríain of Quiddity.ie and contains the tweet ids of 2,108,782 tweets related to the referendum to repeal the 8th amendment in 2018. They were collected between March 9th, 2018 and May 30th, 2018 from the Twitter filter stream API using Twarc. A number of hashtags used by campaigners on both sides of the referendum were used to filter the searches. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.qv345m70k.

Repeal the Eighth and Reproductive Rights: Organiser Interviews, (Aileen O’Carroll, David Landy, & Máire Ní Mhórdha)

This project looked at how organisations build trust and resolve conflicts in the age of social media. It looked at how in the Repeal campaign, digital tools were used to organise and build up the campaign, develop coalitions and connections, and also how the campaign dealt with the inevitable conflict that all movements have to handle. 25 activists who worked on the Repeal campaign were interviewed. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.kh04tb834-1.

Administrative documents

The second tranche of published material in the ARH project focuses on publications and administrative documents created by stakeholder organisations, including reports, policy papers, and general meeting agendas and minutes from the Abortion Rights Campaign, and policy publications from Together for Yes and Terminations for Medical Reasons. The evolution of the Campaign to Repeal the Eighth Amendment can be traced through submissions to international bodies such as the Commission for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), to public consultations held by the Irish government, and through collections of testimony from ordinary people affected by the Eighth Amendment.


Additional Collections

A number of additional collections have also been preserved as part of the ARH project. These include material by other volunteer organisations, researchers and campaigning groups.

The voices of activists from the past are heard in a series of oral history interview transcripts, taken from interviews with reproductive rights activists in Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s, crucial years for the development of the Irish pro-choice movement. These interviews were conducted by scholars and activists Linda Connolly and Mary Muldowney, and their inclusion in the Archiving Reproductive Health project adds to present and future researchers’ understanding of this period. More recent activists’ voices come from qualitative data compiled by academic Camilla Fitzsimons, from questionnaires conducted in 2015, 2020 and 2021, which provide insights into activists’ thinking on campaigning pre and post the 2018 referendum.

More about the additional collections:

Voices of the Irish Women’s Movement

This collection comprises of legacy qualitative interviews conducted by Professor Linda Connelly in the course of completing her PhD project in 1997. These interviews reflect on the women’s movement of the 1970s and the subsequent founding of many women’s organisations in the 1980s such as the Rape Crisis Centre, Women’s Aid, AIMS Ireland, Cherish and others. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.f475g727d

The Pro-Choice Movement in Ireland from 1983-2010

This is a collection of interviews carried out by historian Mary Muldowney in 2010. The interviews are with pro-choice activists who were involved in the movement at different stages from 1983 to 2010. They include information on the 1983 campaign, 1992 and the X Case, the D Case in 2007 and the Women on Waves campaign in 2001. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.8c980h23g

Mixed-Methods Research Findings from Repeal Activists

This collection contains qualitative data collected by researcher Camilla Fitzsimons through questionnaire responses. The questionnaires were conducted in 2015, 2020 and 2021. Each provides an insight into activist’s thinking on campaigning pre and post the 2018 referendum. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.2n506t51c

Dublin City Library & Archive Savita Halappanavar Memorial

DRI Member Dublin City Library and Archive (DCLA) have published the Savita Halappanavar Memorial Collection on the Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI). This collection brings together photographs commissioned by DCLA in May 2018 of the hundreds of personal notes left by the public at the mural of Savita Halappanavar. The mural was painted by the artist ‘Aches’ on South Richmond Street, beside the Bernard Shaw pub. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.6d57cp71h

Lawyers for Choice

Lawyers for Choice (Ireland) was a group of lawyers and legal scholars who supported the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, and produced policy documents and information booklets about the legal implications of the Eighth for a general audience. This collection includes media releases, information booklets, draft legislation and other publications created by the group as part of its work. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.4742q332t

How the Yes was Won

‘How the Yes was Won’ is a podcast series, written and edited by Deirdre Kelly and Aisling Dolan about the history of reproductive rights in Ireland with interviews with those who fought for them, from the 1970s to the present day. This collection contains all ten episodes of the podcast, including audio files and transcripts. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.dj538x89t

Women’s Information Network

The Women’s Information Network was an volunteer group and helpline that provided non-directive information about abortion for Irish callers in the 1980s and 1990s, often forced to break the law to do so. The WIN collections  includes oral history interviews with volunteers on the famous ‘WIN Helpline’, as well as internal documentation from the organisation’s heyday in the 1980s and 1990s. DOIS:

WIN Interviews: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.xg94xh11n

WIN Activism: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.v40663823

Alliance for Choice Derry

A collection of images, videos, posters and other material from Alliance for Choice Derry, which advocates for the right to abortion in Northern Ireland.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.nk32g692s

 


Public Collection Day

Logos of ARH Wellcome DRI Archives Ireland Informa and Dublin City Library

Archiving Reproductive Health in partnership with Archives Ireland and Informa, held a Public Collection Day in Dublin City Library and Archive, Pearse St, Dublin, on 10 March 2023.

This event was part of the public outreach aspect of ARH, and at the event we worked to digitise a cross-section of personal memorabilia relating to the history of the Eighth Amendment, and of reproductive health in Ireland more generally, over the last few decades.

Members of the public applied to take part in a one-day event in Dublin on 10 March 2023. At this event, the successful applicants brought material which was digitised on-site by expert staff from Archives Ireland and Informa, or was transferred to DRI’s servers using secure file transfer.

DRI staff worked with applicants to collect important information about the material, which was then used for cataloguing. After the event, the digitised material is being published on DRI as part of the ARH collection, ensuring it is preserved in the long-term.

Applications were open to everyone, and we sought material relating to any aspect of the history of the Eighth Amendment and the history of reproductive health and activism in Ireland more generally.

Collections published from material digitised on the Collection Day include:

Nurse Mary Ann Fanning Collection: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.f762h579m

Cork activist groups: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.gm80xn58j

Galway activist groups: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.4t64wf382

Maynooth Feminist Society: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.z0302x98k


Awards and Milestones

Winner of Digital Preservation Award 2022

In June 2022 Archiving Reproductive Health was shortlisted for a Digital Preservation Awards 2022, the prestigious National Records of Scotland Award for Safeguarding the Digital Legacy. This award celebrates initiatives for the practical application of tools to protect at-risk digital objects.  In September 2022, Archiving Reproductive won the award in this category, at the iPres conference in Glasgow. More information at the DRI News page.

Open Scholarship Prize 2022

In April 2022 Archiving Reproductive Health won third place in the Open Scholarship Prize 2022. The Open Scholarship Prize, run as part of Open Scholarship Week, recognises the substantial contribution that Open Scholarship makes to the betterment of science and society. The aim is to award research and researchers that improve society and research generally through making research more accessible, transparent and reproducible. More information at the DRI News Page.


Publications

Project report

This guide describes the contextual background to the ARH project, the first voluntary archiving initiatives after the 2018 referendum, and the development and structure of Archiving Reproductive Health and its main achievements. It has two appendices, the first a report on the technical research carried out during the project, and the second a registry of additional data identified by ARH for potential future archiving. It can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.0z70pq42z

Guide to collections

This guide lists the collections available in the Digital Repository of Ireland, provides brief descriptions of each collection, and the Digital Object Identifier (DOI), a permanent online link, for each collection. It can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.0r96mx74r

Vocabulary report

Our report, ‘Using vocabularies in collection metadata’ summarises the research carried out by digital archivists working on the Archiving Reproductive Health project in developing suitable vocabularies for use in cataloguing digital collections on the topics of reproductive health and reproductive justice. It can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.s752m6304-4

Anonymisation protocol

This factsheet, ‘Archiving Reproductive Health Anonymisation Protocol’ outlines the approaches taken by the project to anonymise some material in the In Her Shoes: Women of the Eighth collection, and the reasons for certain decisions being taken. It may be of use to social science researchers and people working with personal data in their research datasets. It can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.8910zn364

Conference presentations

At the Archives Society of Alberta Biennal conference ‘Care for People in the Archives’ in Edmonton, Canada, Clare Lanigan and Lorraine Grimes presented ‘Developing a self-care protocol for working with potentially traumatic data: the Archiving Reproductive Health experience’. The presentation can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.8091288

A presentation ‘The Archiving Reproductive Health project as a FAIR data resource for humanities researchers’ was written by Clare Lanigan, Preetam Singhvi and Lorraine Grimes and presented by Clare Lanigan at the DARIAH Annual Event 2023 ‘Cultural Heritage Data as Humanities Research Data?’ in Budapest, Hungary. The presentation can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.8087434

At the Archives and Records Association Conference 2023 ‘Communities’, Clare Lanigan gave a presentation ‘Archiving activist communities: The Archiving Reproductive Health project’s work building relationships with grassroots feminist organisations.’ The presentation can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.8315059

Guide to archiving for community groups

ARH has published ‘Guide to archiving digital records for volunteer and community groups’, a resource  of clear, easy to follow and accessible instructions and advice for small organisations with limited resources, enabling them to make the best use of what resources they have and to preserve a cross-section of their digital records. The Guide can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.k069p160j.

ARH Ethics Protocol

An Ethics Protocol for the project has been developed to ensure the quality and integrity of our research and archiving processes, to outline the ethical issues which arise from the project, and to ensure transparency in the project. The Ethics Protocol can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.6t05h703d-1.

ARH Researcher Self-Care Protocol

A Self-Care Protocol for Researchers has been developed by Dr Lorraine Grimes, the primary researcher on this project. The Self-Care Protocol includes practicalities for working with sensitive or traumatic data. It focuses on the potential to harm the researcher when working with sensitive data on reproductive health. Researchers working with collections within this project are encouraged to develop their own Self-Care protocols. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.7079k0713-1.


Bibliographies

Postdoctoral Researcher and Digital Archivist Lorraine Grimes has also developed a bibliography of sources in the area of research ethics, and working with sensitive and potentially traumatic research in the field of arts, humanities, and social sciences. This bibliography can be accessed on Zotero at this link.

The Archiving the 8th project, which ran in University College Dublin in 2020 and 2021, created an interactive Zotero library that comprises a comprehensive list of academic articles associated with the lifespan of the Eighth Amendment. This bibliography can be accessed on Zotero at this link and new contributions are welcomed.

The project’s Data Management Plan is available via DMPOnline.


Stakeholder Advisory Forum

This forum consists of representatives of each of the organisations whose data will be collected and ingested to DRI. The aim of the forum is for us to get feedback from stakeholders about the ARH project and the digital collections we are creating. We want to ensure that we are collecting and archiving this material in the best way possible, and we feel that people involved with the organisations whose material we are archiving, either as volunteers or as researchers, are best placed to give us this feedback.

Over the course of the project we will hold three Stakeholder Advisory Forum meetings, in order to get essential feedback and advice on the progress of the ingested collections.

Stakeholder Advisory Forum Members

NAME ROLE
Claire Brophy Volunteer, Abortion Rights Campaign and digital humanities scholar
Mary McAuliffe Director of Gender Studies at University College Dublin
Sinead Kennedy Coalition to Repeal the Eighth & Senior University Tutor, Maynooth University.
Camilla Fitzsimons  Volunteer, Abortion Rights Campaign & Lecturer, Maynooth University
Heike Felzmann Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, National University of Ireland, Galway
Jenny Dagg Postdoctoral researcher, Re(al)productive Justice: Gender and Disability, NUI Galway
Mary Favier GP and member of Doctors for Choice
Gráinne Griffin Co-director, Together for Yes
Erin Darcy Administrator, In Her Shoes: Women of the Eighth
Mandy Lee Assistant Professor, Centre for Health Policy and Management, Trinity College Dublin
Mary Lalor Moderator, In Her Shoes

Statement on Archiving In Her Shoes collection

The popular Facebook page “In Her Shoes” is being preserved and archived by the Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI) as part of the ‘Digital Preservation of Health Resources: Archiving Reproductive Health’ (Archiving Reproductive Health) project.

You can see an example of what this collection will look like here: https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.wm11nd02p

If you have submitted a personal story that was published on the In Her Shoes Facebook page, it will form part of this collection.

This means that posts on this page from January 2018 to June 2018 and beyond, will be preserved for the long term within the DRI repository.

Access to the majority of individual abortion stories will be restricted to people engaged in teaching and research, with access provided on a case by case basis following requests. These posts can only be used for educational purposes. (A small number of writers have given permission for their stories to be made immediately available to the general public).

Those engaged in research will be able to access the contents of the Facebook page for years to come.

This restriction is required by current legislation. Changes to this legislation may allow us to make these posts more widely available in the future. The expiration of Copyright and GDPR restrictions will allow the collection to be made available in the long term future.

Individual stories will also be made available through a publicly accessible link from the collection on DRI to the Facebook page. However, it is likely that these links will disappear over time.

Each post will be catalogued using descriptive terms which will help researchers to find and cross-reference material.

The In Her Shoes Facebook page does not contain any links to personal Facebook accounts. We are not archiving the comments/likes on each of the posts.

Why are we doing this? 

The In Her Shoes Facebook page was instrumental in changing voters’ minds in the run up to the referendum; therefore, we believe it is of historical value.

Content on Facebook is at risk of future loss; archiving will allow for the contents of this page to be preserved long-term.

By archiving the contents of the page, this will make way for further research in the areas of women’s reproductive health, human rights, law, social science and many other fields.

The page will also be of interest to those who advocate in the area of reproductive health, to help change public opinion in relation to abortion, and de-stigmatise abortion.

Policy advisors may also be interested in qualitative research in this area, possibly influencing policy change.

The preservation of these collections add significantly to our understanding of women’s rights movements and access to reproductive healthcare in Ireland.

What do I need to do?

You do not need to do anything.

However, if you contributed your story to the In Her Shoes Facebook page and have any concerns or questions, you can email the Irish Qualitative Data Archive, iqda@mu.ie for more information.

DRI is funded by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (DFHERIS) via the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and the Irish Research Council (IRC).

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