Irish citizens prepare to vote on abortion laws

Irish expatriates are returning to Ireland on Friday to vote on a referendum that will decide the fate of an amendment that could potentially ban abortion.

On March 8, the Irish government approved a Bill permitting a referendum to take place on May 24, which will decide if abortion laws in the country will be amended. As news of the referendum circulated, Irish citizens living abroad have taken to Twitter to announce that they will be returning to Ireland to take part in the vote, using the hashtag #HomeToVote. Irish citizens announced that they will be travelling from across the globe to exercise their right to vote.

The referendum will decide on the appeal of the 1983 eighth amendment, which gives foetuses/embryos and pregnant women “equal right to life”, essentially banning most abortions nationwide. Currently, abortions are illegal in the country, making Ireland’s laws on abortion some of the most severe in the world.

In the majority Catholic country, women can only get abortions in Ireland under extremely limited circumstances including “risk of loss of life from physical illness”, “risk of loss of life from physical illness in emergency” and “risk of loss of life from suicide”. Currently, women who are impregnated through rape or incest cannot terminate a pregnancy. Additionally foetal abnormalities and women’s health concerns are not accepted as legitimate reasons to end a pregnancy. The consequence for an abortion include a fine and/or a maximum 14-year prison sentence.

When the referendum was first announced, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar explained the decision to move forward with the referendum saying, “This referendum is about asking our citizens to allow women to make major decisions for themselves. It’s about trusting women to decide, in the early weeks of their pregnancy, what’s right for them and their families.”

Irish health minister Simon Harris says he has faith that Irish citizens will pass the referendum saying it would be a great opportunity for citizens to consider the misgivings of the current law.

“I believe that as people reflect on the current situation in Ireland, where women are forced abroad to have a termination, where women are purchasing abortion pills illegally online and where women in extremely difficult situations are left isolated and neglected, that the Irish people will vote to repeal the eighth amendment.” Harris said.

If the referendum passes women will be able to get unrestricted abortions for up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. Additionally, a policy paper published by the Irish government stated that it would no longer make a “distinction” between mental and physical health risks.

According to sexual health provider Irish Family Planning Association, since 1983 more than 168 000 women have left Ireland to access abortion services outside of Ireland. According to Irish media site The Journal, five Irish women illegally order abortion pills online each day.

As of 2013, 61 countries around the world permit abortion with no restrictions. These countries constitute 39% of the world’s population. Although abortion is legal in these countries, many of them have gestational limits.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertising

READ IT IN FULL: Ramaphosa’s address on the extension of...

This is the full address given by President Cyril Ramaphosa on April 9

Meet the doctor leading Africa’s fight to contain the coronavirus...

Dr Matshidiso Moeti’s father helped to eliminate smallpox. Now she’s leading Africa’s efforts against the coronavirus

Stella set to retain her perks

Communication minister will keep Cabinet perks during her two months of special leave

Covid-19 grounds Nigeria’s medical tourists

The country’s elites, including the president, travelled abroad for treatment but now they must use the country’s neglected health system

Press Releases

Rahima Moosa Hospital nursing college introduces no-touch facial recognition access system

The new system allows the hospital to enrol people’s faces immediately, using artificial intelligence, and integrates easily with existing access control infrastructure, including card readers and biometrics

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world