The tragic death that inspired Ireland's pro-choice campaign

Minnie Murray
May 28, 2018

An initiative to repeal Ireland's abortion law was overwhelmingly successful, results released Saturday indicate.

Friday's vote repealed the Eighth Amendment to Ireland's Constitution, which was added in 1983 and granted equal rights to unborn fetuses and amounted to an nearly complete ban on abortions.

In a post on Twitter, Mrs May said: "The Irish Referendum yesterday was an impressive show of democracy which delivered a clear and unambiguous result".

In Ireland, 66 percent of the electorate voted to change the country's strict abortion laws, with thousands of Irish citizens living in Europe returning home to take part in the historic vote.

For decades, the law forced over 3,000 women to travel to Britain each year for terminations and "Yes" campaigners argued that with others now ordering pills illegally online, abortion was already a reality in Ireland.

Anti-abortion groups in Ireland vowed to continue their fight to protect existing abortion laws and the rights of the unborn child despite an apparent referendum setback.

His government proposes allowing abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and between 12 and 24 weeks in exceptional circumstances.

"What we've seen is the culmination of a quiet revolution that's been taking place in Ireland over the past 20 years", said Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, a center-right politician who supported repealing the abortion ban.

In a message to the DUP, she said the people of Northern Ireland "consistently support change" in the abortion law and it was "time to put them, not power in Westminster, first". Terminations had previously only been allowed if the mother's life was in danger, including as a result of suicide.

The campaign was defined by women publicly sharing their painful experiences of going overseas for procedures, a key reason why all but one of Ireland's 40 constituencies voted "Yes".


Ruth Foster, a Belfast-born student in her final year at the University of Edinburgh, thinks many people in the rest of the United Kingdom are unaware of the legal position in Northern Ireland.

Death of a 31-year-old Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar is said to have acted as a catalyst in this movement.

Former One Direction member and Irish native Niall Horan also shared his thoughts on the vote.

Halappanavar's father, Andanappa Yalagi, told the Irish Times on Saturday that he and his wife are "really, really happy", and are grateful to all who voted "Yes" in the referendum.

Irish Health Minister Simon Harris said: "Under the Eighth Amendment women in crisis pregnancy have been told: 'Take the plane or take the boat.' Today we tell them: 'Take our hand'".

Campaigners for change, wearing "Repeal" jumpers and "Yes" badges, gathered at count centres, many in tears and hugging each other.

Mrs Halappanvar's death in 2012 helped to spark passionate calls to reform abortion law in Ireland.

"We are deeply saddened to learn that many Irish people voted against love and life by repealing the 8 amendment", Jeanne Mancini, President of March for Life commented. "I don't think you'll find many people on our side of the referendum who don't accept the result".

He said the government will now move quickly to legalize abortion.

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