Ireland has voted to relax its strict abortion laws in a landslide historic referendum held on Friday, BuzzFeed reports. Around two-thirds of the votes were for repealing the country’s Eighth Amendment, a law that equated the right to life of a mother and her unborn child, which effectively outlawed abortion in nearly all circumstances.
"100 years after women gained the right to vote, we have taken the decision to say we trust women and we respect women to make their own decisions and their own choices," Ireland Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said at a press conference on Saturday.
"No more to doctors telling their patients that there’s nothing that can be done for them in their own country, no more lonely journeys across the Irish sea," he continued, referencing the expensive journeys some women would be forced to make in order to get an abortion in another country.
Leo Varadkar quoted Maya Angelou in honour of Irish women who have suffered because of the 8th amendment: “history despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived. But if faced with wrenching pain, it need not be lived again.” pic.twitter.com/OyGHAk8Baz— Laura Silver (@laurafleur) May 26, 2018
The referendum effectively means that from Saturday, the terms of the Eighth Amendment are no longer valid. However, the Irish government must now begin creating new laws for abortion in the country, and this process is expected to take some time, although “before at least the end of the year,” BuzzFeed reports. Legislation has been proposed that would allow abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks. After that time period, abortion would be legal in situations where the mother’s life or health is in danger, or if the fetus has a condition in which it will likely die before birth.
One of the focal points of the Yes campaign was the case of Savita Halappanavar, a woman who died in 2012 after as a result of a miscarriage after she was denied an abortion. Earlier this week, Halappanavar’s parents had urged voters to vote yes so that “what happened to her won’t happen to any other family.”
"It’s still very emotional after five years. I think about her every day. She didn’t get the medical treatment she needed because of the eighth amendment. They must change the law,” Andanappa Yalagi, Halappanavar’s father, told the Guardian on Wednesday.
Flowers and messages left at a mural for Savita Halappanavar, who died in 2012 after she was refused an abortion pic.twitter.com/eXGqN7vOoq— Eleanor Barlow (@EleanorBarlow) May 26, 2018
Many Irish people, and women in particular, flew back home in order to vote in the referendum, and the phenomenon generated a social media movement called #HomeToVote. Women shared their motivations for assuring women have the right to make decisions over their own bodies in emotional posts throughout the past several days on Twitter.
To everyone travelling #HomeToVote today - you are incredible. Your voice is so important, and we are moved to tears by your determination to use it. ✊🏽✊🏿✊🏻 (Thank you to @moneenlux for the tweet images) pic.twitter.com/zLegf4pQSu— Fawcett Society (@fawcettsociety) May 25, 2018
In America, Roe v. Wade ensures abortion remains legal, but Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and certain sections of the Republican Party are continually working to repeal it or at least to make abortions more difficult for women to get. Studies have proven, time and again, that when abortion is legalized, the rates of deaths from abortion decline significantly and the overall lives and health of women and families improve.