Ireland Voted to Repeal Its Abortion Amendment In Landslide Vote

Irish voters repealed their country’s eighth constitutional amendment, which said that a mother and the unborn child have an “equal right to life,” in a landslide vote on Friday, The Huffington Post reports.

Results from Friday’s vote showed that among the 2.1 million votes cast, 1.4 million voted to repeal the decades-long constitutional ban on abortions, ABC News reports. Approximately 723,000 voters voted to keep the constitutional ban in place.

“What we have seen today is a culmination of a quiet revolution that’s been taking place in Ireland for the past 10 or 20 years. This has been a great exercise in democracy and the people have spoken,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said in a statement.

 

“The people have said that we want a modern constitution for a modern country and we trust women and we respect them to make the right decisions and the right choices,” he added. “It gives the government the mandate that we need now to bring forward the legislation that we promised and have it through the door ... and enacted before the end of this year,” Varadkar said.

Ireland, which has always been largely Catholic, has seen the moral influence of the country waning. In 2016, Roman Catholics made up 78.3 percent of the population, down from 86.8 percent in 2006, HuffPost reports. Recent scandals have largely undermined the church’s authority.

Ireland’s abortion ban set very restrictive rules on abortion, often denying abortions for women even when the pregnancy severely affected their health.

According to HuffPost, those campaigning to repeal the abortion ban pointed to the infamous case of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist who died in 2012 from complications related to a septic miscarriage. She was denied an abortion 17 weeks of pregnancy. Just this year, Claire Malone, a 30-year-old woman who suffered from a congenital heart condition and had only one lung, passed away after her doctors denied her abortion, deeming her pregnancy “high risk” but not life threatening.

The abortion ban considered the procedure a criminal offense that carried up to 14 years behind bars, which ultimately forced women to either illegally order abortion pills online or travel to abroad, often to England, for the procedure.

But now the repealing of the amendment will pave the way for Irish legislators to to regulate abortions like the United States and United Kingdom. According to ABC News, lawmakers are expected to debate proposed legislation that will allow a woman to get an abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, or after that in cases of fetal abnormalities or severe health risks to the mother.

One individual from the campaign to repeal the abortion amendment called the results of the vote “momentous.”

“The polls suggest all generations voted with us,” Catherine Conlon, a social policy professor at Trinity College in Dublin, told ABC News.

“I'm so heartened to know so many of my fellow citizens reflected on this debate and came to trust women,” Conlon added. “Thank you to every single ‘yes’ voter that walked into a polling station yesterday. You have changed Ireland for my daughters and son.”