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 WikiTribune, United Kingdom
Source: WikiTribune
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.
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