Ireland voting today to loosen abortion ban

Geraldine Edwards
May 26, 2018

Exit polls from Ireland's historic referendum on abortion showed that an overwhelming majority of voters had endorsed government plans to scrap Europe's most restrictive law.

Dublin voter Helen, 47, who did not want to give her surname and is now unemployed after suffering cancer, said her radiation treatment would have been stopped had she been pregnant, under existing laws giving equal right to life to expectant mothers and unborn babies.

Currently, if a woman falls pregnant in Ireland it is illegal for her to seek an abortion under the eighth amendment.

The Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI exit poll suggested that voters in the once deeply Catholic nation had backed a referendum by a margin of 68 per cent to 32 per cent.

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"If the vote passes it would be another social-change milestone for Ireland after it legalized contraception (1979), divorce (1995), and same-sex marriage (2015)", USA Today reports.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar tweeted his support for the bill before a moratorium on campaigning took effect Thursday.

"Yes" campaigners have argued that with over 3,000 women travelling to Britain each year for terminations - a right enshrined in a 1992 referendum - and others ordering pills illegally online, abortion is already a reality in Ireland. Connacht-Ulster - the part of Ireland that is most rural and most conservative - reported 59 percent in favor of constitutional change.

Hundreds of Labour members have flown to Ireland, potentially sharing the same plane as a woman returning home after having a safe abortion, to campaign for accessible abortions at home in Ireland.

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Tara Flynn, who 11 years ago flew to the Netherlands for an abortion, said she planned to vote "yes" to make sure future generations of women don't endure what she did, with feelings of isolation and shame.

But today the country will vote in a landmark referendum to decide whether to repeal the legislation and make abortion before 12 weeks legal. Irish people living overseas for less than 18 months remain on the electoral roll, however are required to return home to vote. Moreover, it is imbued with the very sense of equality that Ms Woods champions but does not seem to apply to everyone - she expresses shock that the Irish Constitution "gives the same right to life as the mother".

Thousands of Irish people overseas have travelled home to take part in the historic referendum, and supporters of repeal gathered at Dublin Airport to give arrivals an ecstatic welcome. Support among men was 65 percent pro-choice and 35 percent anti-abortion.

"At no stage has the government held out its hand to these women and said, 'How can I help you?" Official counting begins Saturday at 9 a.m. (4 a.m. ET), with the final results expected late afternoon. "I hope you'll join me in granting those in a crisis pregnancy compassionate access to healthcare in Ireland on Friday the 25th of May by voting YES".

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The voting took place on a day that was sunny throughout much of Ireland, which may have bolstered turnout. Ahead of the vote, women have come forward to share their stories about unplanned pregnancies and their limited options for medical in their country.

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