Ireland on May 26, 2018 voted to end the abortion ban, a move hailed as the culmination of “a quiet revolution” in one of the Europe’s most socially conservative countries. A quiet revolution has been taking place in Ireland over the last couple of decades.
Voters voted to liberalise the highly restrictive abortion laws by two-to-one, thus, allowing the government to bring in the new legislation by the end of the year.
The referendum follows a sensitive campaign. Over 3.2 million people registered to vote in the referendum.
The law on abortion is inscribed in the country’s constitution, which can be changed only by referendum.
In a referendum, more than 66 percent of Irish voters chose to repeal the Eighth Amendment, which has banned abortion in the nation since its passage in 1983.
The Eighth Amendment states that an unborn child has the same right to life as a pregnant woman. Moreover, it does not permit abortion in cases of rape, incest or fetal abnormalities.
• It now falls on Parliament to establish new laws governing abortions.
• The government proposes that the law should be changed to allow unrestricted access to abortions up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.
• Moreover, it also proposes that abortions may be allowed in special circumstances beyond 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The result comes 23 years after divorce was legalised in a close 1995 vote; three years after Ireland became the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote; and a year after Leo Varadkar, a gay politician and son of an Indian immigrant, became Prime Minister.
Ireland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the European Union. Malta, a country that bans the abortion under all circumstances, is the only member of the union with tighter legislation.
In favour of the vote
• Siobhan Donohue, the Chairwoman of the Termination for Medical Reasons (TFMR), an abortion rights campaign group, described the result as “hugely significant".
• Donohue was one who had to travel to neighboring Britain to have an abortion when her baby TJ was diagnosed with a fetal anomaly. She feels relieved now.
Against the vote
• Orla Halpenny, a doctor and spokesperson for the anti-abortion group ‘Doctors for Life’, described the result as "disappointing".
• Halpenny is now concerned that doctors will not have the right to refuse to refer patients for termination services.
Background: Savita Halappanavar’s case
Image showing protest against abortion ban in Ireland following the death of Savita Halappanavar
No social issue had divided Ireland’s 4.8 million people as harshly as abortion which became a political agenda by the death of a 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar , an Indian immigrant who died from a septic miscarriage in 2012 after she was refused abortion.
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