Ireland: An overwhelming vote to overturn abortion ban
In the end, it wasn’t even close, said Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times. Ireland has voted in a landslide, 66.4 percent to 33.6 percent, to legalize abortion. Every county, save for northernmost Donegal, voted Yes to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution—which effectively banned terminations—as did clear majorities of rural and urban voters, the middle-aged and the young, men and women. The over-65s were the only age group overall that voted to keep the amendment. Ireland’s government will soon submit a bill to legalize abortion in the first trimester. Never again will Irish women be “made to feel small, contemptible, shameful, unwanted” for asserting their basic health-care rights, and never will they be forced to travel abroad to receive an abortion.
Young voters drove this movement, said Shona Murray in the Sunday Independent. The 2012 death of 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar from septicemia—which the Indian dentist contracted after a Galway hospital denied her an abortion during a miscarriage—spurred them to demand a referendum. “I was 13 when Savita died,” said Dublin resident Cara Daniel. “It was a wake-up call that I didn’t want to live in a country that allowed this.” And with absentee voting banned in most cases, thousands of young expats—most of them women—returned to Ireland to cast ballots and were greeted by cheering crowds at ports and airports. The vote’s result is a final rebuke of the Catholic Church, said Piaras Mac Éinrí in The Irish Times. Its power has been corroded by the constant drip of shocking revelations about its “disgraceful history of incarceration, ill-treatment, abuse, cover-ups, and denials.” We have learned that priests violated countless children, that girls were held as slaves in the Magdalene Laundries, that hundreds of dead babies were buried at church-run orphanages. Is it any wonder the Irish have rejected the church “as a moral arbiter”?
It’s been a “seismic shift in attitude in little over a generation,” said David Young in the Irish Examiner. The Eighth Amendment was adopted in a referendum only 35 years ago. Then nine years later, another referendum gave women the right to travel abroad to seek an abortion. Three years ago, we legalized same-sex marriage, and now we have a gay prime minister, Leo Varadkar, son of an Indian immigrant. Ireland has undergone a “tectonic drift from social conservatism to progressive liberalism.”
Ireland has indeed become a different place, said Breda O’Brien in The Irish Times, “a place with a heart closed to the ones who will die because they are not deemed human enough to be protected.” It is impossible to describe “the alienation and horror” that abortion opponents like me feel about their fellow citizens’ decision to scrap the Eighth Amendment and “to watch some of them singing and dancing in celebration.” Yet pro-life campaigners “will not disappear.” Instead, we will take inspiration from countries like the U.S., where anti-abortion campaigners are successfully fighting for the unborn. “The resistance begins now.” ■