On Friday, May 25, people in the Republic of Ireland will vote on whether they want to make changes to the country’s strict abortion laws, as per reports by BBC. Eighth Amendment of the Irish constitution upholds these laws. Thousands of Irish women travel every year for abortion procedures in Britain. For women making the reverse trip to vote ‘Yes’ to repeal the amendment, their journey carries a lot of meaning.
Thes amendment, introduced in 1983, states that a woman and a foetus have an equal right to life. This makes abortion illegal in all cases unless there is a significant threat to a woman’s life. From 2013, terminations were allowed in Ireland for cases where life of mother was at risk. The maximum penalty for undergoing an illegal abortion is 14 years in prison. The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act allowed terminations to be carried out where there is a threat to the life of the mother. They would also be allowed where there is medical consensus that the expectant mother will take her own life.
Why the vote?
There have been a number of cases in the recent past which have highlighted the inadequacy of the current law. One example is the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012 from sepsis after being refused an abortion during miscarriage. Another case is that of Amanda Mellet, who was forced to travel to England to terminate a pregnancy with fatal foetal anomaly. The government has now asked the citizens to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ concerning repeal of the amendment.
What after repeal?
In March, Ireland Health Minister, Simon Harris, outlined what would be in the government legislation if the people voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment. The proposed legislation will allow abortion on request up to the 12th week of pregnancy (subject to medical regulation). After 12 weeks ,abortion would only be available in cases of fatal anomaly or if the pregnant woman’s life was at risk. Two doctors will approve concerning cases after 12 weeks.
Irish voters from around the world are returning to cast their vote on whether or not to repeal the country’s 8th Amendment. The #HomeToVote hashtag is trending, as Irish citizens are sharing their journeys home. A similar movement also took off ahead of the 2015 vote that legalised same-sex marriage. The Eighth Amendment came into being after a 1983 referendum, therefore, no one under age 54 has voted on this before.
All the way from Sweden to Kerry, a 12 hour journey to cross a big fat YES on the ballot paper #HometoVote #repealthe8th pic.twitter.com/psC2utM3K5
— Nora Duggan (@nkduggan) May 23, 2018
Argument for repealing the 8th amendment
The main argument is that criminalising abortion does not prevent abortion. Women living in Ireland have abortions, either abroad or illegally in Ireland.
Powerful words from powerful women. Fine Gael colleagues past and present explain why the 8th Amendment hasn’t worked, and why you should vote Yes on Friday. #8thRef #together2vote #hometovote pic.twitter.com/U6DsHLgZW5
— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) May 23, 2018
If Ireland votes ‘no’, Irish women will not only suffer, but also it will be a huge setback for women’s rights yet again. This is reason enough for Ireland to vote yes.
Bhawana is an intern with SheThePeople.TV