Irish return for once-in-lifetime abortion vote

Irish emigrants living overseas are journeying from across the world to vote in a historic referendum, which could pave the way for legal abortions up to 12 weeks in the staunchly Catholic country.

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, United Kingdom
Irish return for once-in-lifetime abortion vote - NewsMavens
William Murphy, Flickr

Why this story matters:

Imagine this: you're pregnant but for a reason you cannot change –- your baby will not survive, you can't mentally take it, or you feel you cannot simply raise a child –- and in order to obtain an abortion you have to book a flight, take time off work, and travel overseas, probably to England. After the procedure, you travel home to the Republic of Ireland where you get on with your life, your abortion a secret.

This journey is taken by 10 women a day, an Amnesty International study estimates. That could all be set to change if a referendum on abortion in Ireland is successful.

The referendum will ask voters in the country where abortion is currently illegal in nearly all cases: "Do you approve of the proposal to amend the Constitution contained in [the Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018]?"

If there is a "yes" vote, the Irish government will legislate for allowing abortions up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, and in other cases up to six months.

Irish now living overseas are tipped to make a big impact in the vote, as they travel back home to vote in their thousands.

The most bizarre thing: the journey they make home is the same journey those women have to make to obtain an abortion under current Irish law.

Details from the story:

  • On May 25, Ireland will go to the polls to vote on whether to liberalise abortion law there.
  • The Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution equates the life of the unborn and the mother, therefore prohibiting most abortions.
  • Ten women travel from Ireland for termination every day.
  • There was a similar homecoming before the passage of a same-sex marriage law there in 2015.
  • The result will be close, but "it's a silent vote ... opinion polls are skewed," said Raymond Reilly, who is travelling home from London to vote.

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
Is something happening in your country that Newsmavens should cover?
Zuzanna Ziomecka
Zuzanna Ziomecka EDITOR IN CHIEF
Lea Berriault-Jauvin
Lea Berriault Managing Editor
Jessica Sirotin
Jessica Sirotin EDITOR
Ada Petriczko
Ada Petriczko EDITOR
Gazeta Wyborcza, Agora SA Czerska 8/10 00-732, Warsaw Poland
The e-mail addresses provided above are not intended for recruitment purposes. Messages concerning recruitment will be deleted immediately. Your personal data provided as part of your correspondence with Zuzanna,Lea, Jessica and Ada will be processed for the purpose of resolving the issue you contacted us about. The data provided in your email is controlled by Agora S.A. with its registered office in Warsaw Czerska 8/10 Street (00-732). You can find more information about the processing and protection of your personal data at