Referendum in Ireland would repeal strict ban on abortion

Voters throughout Ireland have begun casting votes in a referendum that may lead to a loosening of the country’s strict ban on most abortions.

A woman carries a baby in a cot as goes to cast her vote at a polling station in the referendum on the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution, in Dublin, Friday, May 25, 2018. (Niall Carson/PA via AP)

Ireland’s referendum Friday represented more than a vote on whether to end the country’s strict abortion ban. It was a battle for the very soul of a traditionally conservative Roman Catholic country that has seen a wave of liberalization in recent years.

The country’s leaders support a “yes,” an outcome that would repeal a 1983 constitutional amendment requiring authorities to treat a fetus and its mother as equals under the law. They say it’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to liberalize abortion rules.

It’s also a key indicator of Ireland’s trajectory, three years after the country voted to allow same-sex marriages and a year after it elected a gay prime minister.

Theresa Sweeney, a repeal supporter, was one of the first people to arrive at the North Grand Church polling station in Dublin.

“I’m not usually an early riser, but I couldn’t wait to get down here to vote,” she said. “I feel like I’ve waited all of my adult life to have a say on this.”

Vera Rooney cast her ballot at the same polling place.

“It is a hard decision but I just feel I don’t have the right to take life,” she said. “I think life is sacred and for that reason I had to vote no.”

The referendum will decide whether the eighth amendment of the constitution is repealed or stays in place.

Related: ‘Reprehensible’: Trudeau abortion policy raises ire of U.S. right

The amendment requires authorities to equally protect the right to life of a mother and that of a fetus, from the moment of conception. Abortion in largely Catholic Ireland is illegal except in cases when the woman’s life is in danger, and several thousand Irish women travel each year to get abortions in neighbouring Britain.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, a doctor, voted in favour of repeal Friday morning at Laurel Lodge in Castleknock.

“Not taking anything for granted of course, but quietly confident,” he said, adding. “A high turnout I think would be to the advantage to the ‘yes’ campaign, and obviously the upside of a good sunny day in Ireland is that people come out to vote.”

Results are not expected until Saturday afternoon or evening. Voting has already taken place on islands so that paper ballots can be taken to the mainland and counted in time.

Letters to the editor published Friday in the Irish Independent newspaper contained emotional arguments urging voters to reject the repeal movement.

“If we vote ‘yes’, every unborn, wanted and unwanted, will have zero rights,” wrote Frances Kelleher, from Killarney. “I do not believe the smart people of Ireland want this unrestricted, abortion-on-demand bill. I will be voting no.”

If citizens vote in favour of repeal, new abortion laws will then be discussed in parliament. The government proposes that terminations be allowed during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Later abortions would be allowed in special cases.

Related: Alberta set to introduce bill for no-go zones around abortion clinics

Related: Feds clarify LGBTQ and abortions rights attestation for summer jobs funding

Gregory Katz And Renata Brito, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

UPDATED: Trudeau announces bioregional oceans protection agreement in Prince Rupert

Agreement announced in partnership with 14 central and north coast First Nations

Students sew 1,000 moccasins for Indigenous children in foster care

Prince Rupert schools stitch moccasins and pack backpacks as part of child apprehension campaign

Walk this way: Port officially opens Atlin Promenade

Prince Rupert’s waterfront access was extended with a ribbon cutting ceremony June 20

Pair kayaking from Glacier Bay to Vancouver Island to raise awareness about Ocean Pollution

Lucy Graham and Mathilde Gordon arrived in Prince Rupert on June 16

Marijuana to be legal in Canada Oct. 17: Trudeau

Prime Minister made the announcement during question period in the House of Commons

This Week Podcast — Episode 90

For National Indigenous Peoples Day, organizers of Prince Rupert festivities tell us what’s coming up

Rescued Oregon family simply unprepared for adventure, RCMP say

Agencies now helping the group of four get to their destination in Alaska

Large B.C. tree dies after possible poisoning

Police and District investigate after large chestnut tree’s rapid decline

Canucks release 2018-19 season schedule

Vancouver to face Calgary Flames on Wednesday, Oct. 3, for home opener

VIDEO: Luxury Home and Design Show opens with Italian flare

Event set to run Friday to Sunday at BC Place in Vancouver

Small new charge on BC Hydro bills goes toward new crisis fund

The new fund aims to help customers who find themselves in financial emergencies

Fake cops ‘arrest’ woman, steal $6,000 in latest CRA scam

Vancouver police urge people not take calls from anyone saying they’re from the Canada Revenue Agency

Study shows increase in mountain bike tourism in B.C.

Numbers are up, way up, for bike-related visits to the province

Most Read