The Republic of Ireland’s Referendum to overturn abortion ban resulted in a landslide “yes” to the repeal side, a momentous win for women’s reproductive rights.
After the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861, abortion has been illegal in Ireland, and people of Ireland recognized the harm and suffering the Eighth Amendment caused over the years that allowed them to put it in the end. While the Republic of Ireland has access to abortion, Northern Ireland are still persecuted by a “Victorian-era abortion ban.”
In a historic move, more than 1.4 million voters favored in repealing the Eighth Amendment of Irish Constitution while 724,000 voted to keep the abortion ban that Prime Minister Leo Varadkar called a “quiet revolution” and a “great act of democracy.”
The vote will remove a 1983 amendment that recognizes an equal right for a mother and a fetus, strictly prohibiting abortion. In 1992, two referendums were held, allowing women to have an abortion outside Ireland, and authorizing information about abortion services overseas. In 2013, the law was modified to allow abortions if the mother’s life is at risk.
The strict prohibition of abortion in Ireland posed a “real and substantial risk.” It was a result of her suicidal thoughts after the supreme court did not allow her from going to Britain for abortion. In 2012, Savita Halappanavar died in a hospital after being denied abortion during a miscarriage. Then in 2016, Amanda Mellet’s unborn child had a fatal anomaly due to the trauma she endured from having to go overseas for an abortion. The Irish women that suffered during Ireland’s abortion ban led to liberalization.
While the end of the year will likely form the new law allowing abortion in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Irish women still face some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, which carry the harshest criminal penalties in Europe. Amnesty International UK says that Northern Irish Women should not be left behind.
“The UK Government can no longer turn a blind eye and deny us equality. We cannot be left behind in the corner of the UK and on the island of Ireland as second-class citizens,” Grainne Teggart, Northern Ireland Campaigns Manager for Amnesty International, said.
Since the abortion law in 1861, hundreds of Northern Irish women travel every year to other parts of the UK for abortion services and others are taking the risk of prosecution by buying abortion pills.
Following the Republic of Ireland’s referendum result, the UK’s supreme court is expected to make its ruling on a case if Northern Ireland abortion law violates women’s rights.