Ireland Prepares For Historic Vote On Abortion

by Aoife Riach

This Friday, after 35 years, Ireland will vote to remove its constitutional ban on abortion. In 1983, the 8th Amendment was added to the Irish constitution, equating the life of a fetus to the life of the pregnant person and preventing the possibility of a judicial ruling legalizing abortion. There is no exception for rape, incest, or cases of fatal fetal abnormalities in this law, and no person of childbearing age has had a say on it. Every day in Ireland, at least two women take an illegal abortion pill at home without medical supervision, and those who do so are at risk of a 14-year jail sentence. Every day, more than ten people travel outside the country—to England and further afield—for abortion services. After decades of tireless work by feminist activists and reproductive rights advocates raising awareness, de-stigmatizing abortion, and putting pressure on the government, a referendum has been called to repeal the 8th Amendment.

Together for Yes, the national campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment, is a largely woman-led campaign, and has seen a huge groundswell of support from people across the country and beyond. A crowdfund for the campaign aiming to raise €50,000 in seven days surpassed that goal in under three hours and raised almost €600,000 in one week. Activists that cut their teeth during the referendum on marriage equality in 2015, seasoned campaigners who rallied against the introduction of the Amendment in 1983, and people of all age groups, genders and backgrounds who have decided that enough is enough have been canvassing all over the country for the past two months, knocking on doors, handing out leaflets, and sharing their stories.

The Yes campaign has a received support from Irish and international celebrities including U2, Hozier, Saoirse Ronan, Pink, and Mark Hamill, with actor Cillian Murphy sending a cake to the Together for Yes headquarters.

After the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar in October 2012—she died in hospital after been denied a life-saving termination—Ireland has seen increasing mobilization for abortion rights. Since then, countless women, non-binary people and trans men have come forward to share their horror stories of the impact the 8th Amendment has had on their lives, and the campaign has increased in visibility with Anna Cosgrave’s Repeal Project and iconic black REPEAL jumper.

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As volunteers handed out leaflets at Connolly railway station in Dublin city two days before the vote, passing cars honked their support, and people waved from buses and bicycles. People rushing to work stopped to ask for a Yes badge, or to say, “Don’t worry, you have my vote!” The most touching interactions, however, were the older women and men, not saying anything, but furtively smiling, nodding or giving a thumbs-up as they walked past. They might not be shouting their “Yes” from the rooftops, but they are ready for change, change that should have happened decades ago.

This change hasn’t yet been won. From the main streets of Dublin to the back roads of rural Ireland, posters from the well-funded No campaign cover every lamppost with scaremongering slogans that have been outed as manipulative lies time and again. They are seeking to play on the silence, shame and stigma that has plagued Ireland for decades, that allowed unmarried mothers and “fallen women” to be interned in Magdalene laundries and Mother and Baby Homes, that allowed the practise of symphysiotomy to be enacted on women without their consent, that allowed women and girls like Ann Lovett and Savita Halappanavar to die needlessly. But the people of Ireland are saying No to this outdated and cruel culture of institutional misogyny. To a new Ireland, to a fairer, safer, kinder and compassionate country, to the future we glimpsed this time 3 years ago when we won marriage equality for our LGBTQ+ citizens, the people of Ireland will say Yes.

Top photo: Facebook/Together For Yes

More from BUST

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Irish Citizens Go #HomeToVote For Abortion Rights

Woman Denied A Critical Abortion Dies At Age 31

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