Ireland votes to repeal abortion ban

NEWS 28.05.2018 16:15
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Source: REUTERS/Max Rossi

Ireland has voted an emphatic "Yes" to amend the country's constitution to enable legislation that would allow women to have an abortion in a historic and emotionally charged referendum.

With a high turnout of 64.13%, 1,429,98, or 66.4%, voted for the amendment on Friday and 723,632, or 33.6%, against, according to the country’s Referendum Commission. The results that were announced Saturday defied earlier projections that it would be a tight race.

The vote signifies a resounding victory for the government of Leo Varadkar, the Prime Minister, or Taoiseach as the office is called in Ireland.

“Today is a historic day for Ireland,” Varadkar said at a press conference. “A quiet revolution has taken place, and today is a great act of democracy.”

“A hundred years since women gained the right to vote, today we as a people have spoken,” he said. “And we say that we trust women and respect women to make their own decisions and their own choices.”

Varadkar told Sky TV he expected legislation to be voted through by the end of the year.

The Eighth Amendment, which was added to the constitution following a referendum in 1983, banned abortion in Ireland unless there was a “real and substantial risk” to the mother’s life.

Repeal of the amendment has completed a circle of sweeping social reforms in the European Union nation that fly in the face of the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church, from contraception to divorce, and most recently same-sex marriage.

Those opposed to abortion vowed Saturday to take their fight now to the Irish Parliament, where lawmakers will have to bring about legislation allowing for terminations in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy — and later in cases where there is a risk to the mother’s life or the fetus is not expected to survive.

Dr. Ruth Cullen, spokeswoman for the anti-abortion LoveBoth campaign, conceded defeat Saturday before the count had finished.

“We will hold the Taoiseach to his promise that repeal would only lead to abortion in very restrictive circumstances. He gave his word on this, now he must deliver on it. No doubt many people voted for repeal based on the Taoiseach’s promises in this regard,” Cullen said at a press conference Saturday.

In his statement Saturday, Varadkar acknowledged that those who voted against the repeal likely feel that they no longer recognize their country.

“I want to reassure you that Ireland today is the same country as it was last week,” he said, “but just a little bit more tolerant,more open and more respectful.”

The death of an Indian dentist ignited the abortion rights campaign in Ireland. Savita Halappanavar, 31, died in 2012 because of complications from a natural miscarriage after abortion was denied to her.

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