Ireland Overwhelmingly Votes to Overturn Abortion Ban

Saul Bowman
May 28, 2018

The "right to life of the unborn" was enshrined in the Irish Constitution when the Eighth Amendment was added after a referendum in 1983. "We don't believe in taking a life", said Michael Eustace, 55.

Emma Leahy said her "yes" vote comes from her firm belief that everyone should be able to make their own choice when it comes to abortion. No more stigma. The veil of secrecy is lifted.

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Repealing the Eighth Amendment would come as a major blow to the Catholic Church, which has taken a strong anti-abortion stance.

Still, many who voted in favor of same-sex marriage and laws easing rules around abortion - such as allowing women to travel overseas to get it - found the latest measure a step too far.

Majority Catholic Ireland is now in a heated debate over legalizing pregnancy termination, which is banned under current laws.

On Saturday, Penny Mordaunt, the women and equalities minister, welcomed the outcome of the Irish vote and called for changes in the north: "A historic and great day for Ireland and a hopeful one for Northern Ireland".

"Yes" campaigners focused heavily on hard cases faced by women, such as rape or fetal abnormalities.

The polls are open nearly all day on Friday and results should be in either late Friday night or early on Saturday morning.

That said, billions of dollars have been poured into the Emerald Isle from overseas to ensure a pro-abortion "Yes" vote.

"No more doctors telling their patients there is nothing that can be done for them in their own country", he said.

Still, many who voted in favor of same-sex marriage and laws easing rules around abortion - such as allowing women to travel overseas to get it - found the latest measure a step too far. Currently, terminations are only allowed when a woman's life is at risk. It required doctors to regard the rights of a fetus, from the moment of conception, as equal to the rights of the mother.

"Today I'm celebrating!" Royan wrote in an email after Saturday's news that Ireland's abortion ban was overturned.

There has been a big surge in voter registration ahead of the referendum. She had to go to the Supreme Court after the government blocked her from travelling to get an abortion.

The government proposes that women be allowed to terminate pregnancies in the first 12 weeks.

Islands in south-west Cork will vote on Friday along with the rest of the country.

Some supporters had tears of joy running down their cheeks, and many women hugged. It has the toughest anti-abortion laws in the United Kingdom and only Malta has a stricter ban in Western Europe.

Referring to his nine-year-old son, Aaron, Kaposy said: "As the father of a child with Down's syndrome, I am opposed to the propagandistic use of people like my son in attempts to limit reproductive rights, as has happened in the Irish debate, as well as in the legislative actions taken in various American states to outlaw the abortion of foetuses with Down's syndrome".

She said her vote would be one for solidarity and compassion, "a vote to say, I don't send you away anymore".

The scale of the referendum result has put pressure on British Prime Minister Theresa May to push through changes to Northern Ireland's strict abortion laws.

Fiona O'Brien, who moved to the Toronto area five years ago, said she followed some of the vote over Skype with her mother in Dublin and is "over the moon" with the result.

Meanwhile, the country's education minister Anne Milton told ITV's Peston On Sunday she will back liberalisation of Northern Ireland's abortion laws.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said: "The legislation governing abortion is a devolved matter and it is for the Northern Ireland Assembly to debate and decide such issues".

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