Ireland has done it. In a referendum held on Friday 66.4% of voters opted to repeal the 8th Amendment which effectively bans abortion in almost every instance.
It amounts to a landslide on a sensitive and divisive subject in a deeply Catholic country. Ireland was once viewed as among the most conservative nations in the world with good cause: it only legalised divorce in 1995.
But it seems the people of Ireland are no longer so wedded to tradition and are instead inclined towards change.
In May of 2015 the Irish people voted to legalise same-sex marriage, the first time a popular vote delivered this change.
Now, in 2018 the people of Ireland have cast their votes overwhelmingly in favour of overturning some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws. As it stands in Ireland women are prohibited from aborting pregnancies unless their lives are at risk — even in the cases of incest, rape, and fatal fetal abnormality.
— Together for Yes (@Together4yes) May 26, 2018
The Irish Government plans legislate by the end of the year which will mean, for the first time in history, the women of Ireland will not have to travel to access abortions.
They will no longer need to import abortion pills illegally, without access to medical care or support.
The Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the result represents a “once in a generation vote”.
“The people have spoken. They have said we need a modern constitution for a modern country,” he said. “What we’ve seen is the culmination of a quiet revolution that’s been taking place in Ireland over the past 20 years.”
He said Irish voters “trust and respect women to make the right choices and decisions about their own healthcare”: something that has not historically been afforded to women in Ireland.
— Leo Varadkar (@campaignforleo) May 26, 2018
Campaigners have been seeking to repeal the 8th Amendment for many many years. It was introduced after a 1983 referendum which means no-one under the age of 54 in Ireland had voted on this issue before.
It was thus rightly described as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the people of Ireland to have their say on women’s reproductive rights and the people were clear.
In nearly every age group, men and women, across social classes voted to change the constitution.
— Sally Hayden (@sallyhayd) May 27, 2018
Women and men from all around the world travelled back to Ireland for the vote and the #HomeToVote hashtag is testament to the intent and collective desire for change.
It has been described as a showing of the internet at its absolute best: inspiring and kind and it’s hard to disagree.
— the cute hoor (@HoorayForNiamh) May 22, 2018
My 'drop of golden' son just landed in Cork airport. He is #hometovote and will be voting YES for his sister, YES his mum & YES for a better day for women and a kinder Ireland. Our family all #TogetherForYes #together2vote @CorkTogether4Y pic.twitter.com/fK9Dc7nCi6
— Colette Kelleher (@ColetteKelleher) May 24, 2018
Boarding a 13 hour flight from Buenos Aires to London. London to Dublin tomorrow. No one at airport knows what my repeal jumper means. No one here knows why I'm travelling. If this feels isolating for me, can't imagine how lonely it must be 4 her, travelling 2 the UK #HomeToVote
— Ciaran Gaffney (@gaffneyciaran) May 22, 2018
I'm coming #HomeToVote ! Will be traveling 5,169 miles from LA to Dublin and will be thinking of every Irish woman who has had to travel to access healthcare that should be available in their own country. Let's do this, Ireland! #repealthe8th #VoteYes pic.twitter.com/fZDxUIGrs9
— Lauryn Canny (@LaurynCanny) May 23, 2018
It is impossible to consider the result in Ireland without feeling moved and hopeful. The resounding victory is a reminder that history really is ripe for the making. It is a reminder that it’s possible for individual citizens to unite, to mobilise and to campaign to deliver change.
It has not been an easy road and it certainly hasn’t happened by accident. It is in no small part due to Together for Yes, a grassroots campaign group made up of over 70 organisations, groups and communities representing a diverse cross-section of Irish civil society.
— Irish Political Maps (@IrishPolMaps) May 26, 2018
To say it is overdue for the women of Ireland to have autonomy over their own bodies and healthcare is a gross understatement. Too many women have paid far too high a price for not having this right.
“The wrenching pain of decades of mistreatment of Irish women cannot be unlived,” Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said.
It is true. The pain suffered by women in Ireland cannot be unlived or undone but because of the people of Ireland from 2018 on, this mistreatment is no longer inevitable. The women of Ireland are finally having their reproductive rights respected. Choice will now be delivered.
People power cannot be underestimated. Here in Australia that same people power is needed for the very same reason. We may not have Ireland’s history but the women of Australia still face too many hurdles in accessing abortions.
Never forget that women in Tasmania are being forced to travel to mainland in Australia 2018 right now for abortions – just like the women of Ireland – as a result of market failure and the failure of governments to act. https://t.co/ZhxpWlVijg
— Samantha Maiden (@samanthamaiden) May 25, 2018