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Victory for the rights of women in Ireland
By Jerry Brownstein
Ireland has voted by a landslide to lift the ban on abortion that had been in its constitution for three decades. Voters in a nationwide referendum were asked if they wished to scrap a 1983 amendment to the constitution that effectively banned abortion by giving an unborn child and its mother equal rights to life. The outcome of this vote on 24 May, 2018 was a complete turnaround from the original 1983 referendum. Thirty five years ago 67% of the Irish electorate voted for the ban, and now 67% have voted to give women full reproductive rights. Young voters were overwhelmingly in favour of ending the ban, with 90% of those between 18 and 24 voting ‘yes’.
Yes campaigners argued that with over 3,000 women travelling to Britain each year for terminations, and others ordering abortion pills illegally online, abortion was already a reality in Ireland. Prominent pro-choice campaigner Ruth Bowie said, “Those who make the heartbreaking decision to end a pregnancy will no longer be kicked out of Ireland and made to feel like criminals for their choice.”
This vote underlines the accelerated trend toward progressive social change in a country that had long been dominated by conservative elements of the Catholic church. In 1995 Ireland legalised divorce by a bare majority of just 9,000 votes, yet by 2015 it became the first European country to adopt same-sex marriage by popular vote. The Irish government’s push to liberalise its laws is in contrast to what is happening in the United States. Abortion has long been a legal right there, but president Donald Trump wants to take away federal funding from women’s health care clinics that offer abortions.