Ireland votes to overturn abortion ban in historic referendum

Charlene Craig
May 28, 2018

Ireland has voted overwhelmingly to repeal a restrictive abortion ban from its constitution, the country's prime minister said on Saturday.

I was too young in 1983 to vote in the first referendum that led Ireland to change its Constitution, adding what is known as the eighth amendment, banning abortion in nearly all circumstances, even though it had already been criminalized in the country for over a century.

Among the crowds celebrating the referendum outcome at Dublin Castle where the result was announced, were many from Northern Ireland.

Since 1983, the Eighth Amendment had forced women seeking to terminate pregnancies to go overseas for abortions, bear children conceived through rape or incest, or take risky illegal measures at home.

In one case in 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee said that Ireland's abortion ban had subjected a woman to "suffering and discrimination" after she was forced to choose between continuing a non-viable pregnancy or travelling overseas for an abortion.

Newspapers reflected on the historic vote, while the government promised to allow abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and between 12 and 24 weeks in exceptional circumstances.

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"What we see is the culmination of a quiet revolution that has been taking place in Ireland over the last couple of decades", Varadkar, who became Ireland's first openly gay prime minister past year, told journalists in Dublin.

Anti-abortion activists conceded defeat early on Saturday and MPs who campaigned for a "No" vote said they would not seek to block the government's legislation. "I'm especially grateful to the women of Ireland who came forward to provide their personal testimony about the hard times that they endured, the stress and the trauma that they experienced because of the eighth amendment".

Saturday's result removes the equal right to life of the unborn and mother from the constitution.

He succeeded Enda Kenny, who had helped bring marriage equality to Ireland in 2015, signaling the conservative nation's continued embrace of more secular, liberal values: Homosexuality was only decriminalized in 1993, and divorce two years later.

"You can't have democracy without fundamental human rights, and the women of Northern Ireland have suffered for long enough".

But ultimately this was a uniquely Irish vote fueled by reform.

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More than 170,000 women traveled from Ireland to access abortion services another country between 1980 and 2016, according to the Irish Family Planning Association.

Together For Yes, an umbrella group representing pro-repeal organisations, said at a news conference in Dublin that it would support naming the new law after Savita.

On Friday, citizens of the Republic of Ireland voted in favor of reforming the country's strict abortion laws.

Irish Health Minister Simon Harris said: "Under the Eighth Amendment women in crisis pregnancy have been told: 'Take the plane or take the boat.' Today we tell them: 'Take our hand'".

"The polls suggest all generations voted with us", Catherine Conlon, a Trinity College professor told ABC News, after exit polls showed overwhelming support for repeal of the amendment.

No social issue has divided Ireland's 4.8 million people as sharply as abortion, which was pushed up the political agenda by the death in 2012 of a 31-year-old Indian immigrant from a septic miscarriage after she was refused a termination. My partner and I could conceivably move to either Ireland or Poland - while I don't plan on getting an abortion in the forseeable future, it is a pre-req that I'm able to make that choice if need be, esp my life is at stake.

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