Ireland votes in "once-in-a-generation" abortion referendum

Ireland

Ireland

If a woman falls pregnant in Ireland it is illegal for her to seek an abortion under the eighth amendment, which states that mother and child have the same "right to life".

Dublin voter Helen, 47, who did not want to give her surname and is now unemployed after suffering cancer, said her radiation treatment would have been stopped had she been pregnant, under existing laws giving equal right to life to expectant mothers and unborn babies.

Ireland has traditionally been one of the most religious countries in Europe. Voters should have received a polling card in the post over the past week or so telling them at which polling station they should cast their vote. In 1992, the government allowed women to go overseas for abortions after outrage over a rape victim who was denied abortion.

Yesterday, nine Irish women will have travelled to England to terminate a pregnancy.

But Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said they are "taking absolutely nothing for granted". Methods for accessing abortions have included traveling overseas for the procedure and importing pills ordered online.

"I think about her every day".

Abortion advocate Liam Neeson published an open letter in the Irish Independent urging citizens to overturn Ireland's constitutional amendment that the Irish people passed in 1983.

Ms Woods supports abortion "as a Catholic" even while disagreeing with Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life - the foundation of all human rights.

"I took it really personally, this vote, and said I'm going to come out today and vote for what I believe in".

Several activists held a large "Welcome Home" banner, while others held a placard reading "Thank you for making the journey so other women don't have to" - a reference to the way Irish women seeking abortions have had to leave the country to obtain them.

Tara Flynn, who 11 years ago flew to the Netherlands for an abortion she could not get at home, said she planned to vote "yes" to make sure future generations of women don't endure what she did. I'm not crying, you're crying.

Flynn, 48, said the experience left her feeling isolated, filled with shame, and excluded. The two most recent surveys showed the "Yes" side pulling further ahead.

"If there is a Yes vote Ireland will be the same place, just a place that's a little bit more compassionate and a little bit more understanding than it has been in the past", emphasized Varadkar.

Nulty explained that once we deprive the unborn of the right to life, "we can no longer defend ourselves from what flows from an abortion culture", which "fundamentally alters our attitude towards disability".

But Savethe8th's John McGuirk said people must decide "whether or not we're going to have a liberal abortion regime in Ireland".

At the same time he admitted some people who might be viewed as conservative on this issue will vote to repeal the Eighth as a "screw you" to the Catholic Church.

Catholics are split on the subject, with 45 percent supporting abortion up to 12 weeks and 40 percent opposed, contrasting with 69 percent support and 26 percent opposition amongst those with no religion. Killing them in the womb does not help parents to grieve; moreover, such prognoses can be wrong and once abortion becomes standard practice in such cases there will be no way of finding out until it is too late.

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