On May 25, 2018, Ireland will vote on whether to relax their “harsh” abortion laws. In Ireland, it has been said that change occurs slowly- now it appears as if it has been sped up. Almost exactly three years ago, Ireland voted in favour of same-sex marriage and was the first world-wide to implement this change. Now, voters are about to take to the polls to vote on the most controversial issue in their history- abortion.
This marks the sixth referendum on the topic in the past 35 years for Ireland. While previously the votes were about small changes to legislation, now voters will be able to decide whether to completely relax abortion laws, which is the most restrictive in the world, or maintain the status quo.
Voters will be deciding on whether they want to repeal article 40.3.3 (the eighth amendment) which gives equal rights to fetus’ and pregnant women. Only since 2013 terminations of unwanted pregnancies have been permitted if the mother’s life was in danger, and the penalty for illegal abortions was subject to up to 14 years in prison.
Many are hoping that no matter what the outcome, the unrest surrounding abortion will be quieted. The eighth amendment was originally passed in 1983, and is a controversial issue for most Irelanders. As the day nears, media has been discussing this issue openly, and have been running interviews with women who have had crisis pregnancies. Many of the women who have decided to vote “yes” have reported doing so either over crisis with the mother/baby, or that a woman should have a right to choose. Those who are holding firm to a “no” vote, are doing so out of a belief that it is killing of a baby. According to the Guardian, they feel that a “cherished Ireland” will vanish- one that prizes family, children, the impoverished, protection of the vulnerable, faith, and a country built around community.
Both sides will continue to fight for their cause, which would be to either push for another referendum, or ensure that legislation is either liberal, or restrictive. Either way, May 26 will be a very emotional day for Ireland, once again. It will be one of celebration for some, and disappointment for others.