The world reacts to Ireland’s historic referendum vote to overturn abortion ban

28 May, 2018, 17:12 | Author: Clarence Schmidt
  • Sarah Ewart said women in Northern Ireland had been left in 'limbo' and called for the DUP to change its policy

"A quiet revolution has taken place", he said in a speech at Dublin Castle, where the referendum result was declared, showing 66 percent had voted to repeal the constitutional ban on abortions.

The results of the vote led to an outpouring of emotion from the crowd of protestors, with many chanting the "Savita, Savita", in reference to dentist Savita Halappanavar, 31, whose tragic death in 2012 sparked worldwide outrage. The Irish Times newspaper predicted 68 percent of voters cast ballots to change the law in an exit poll published earlier.

Ireland's push to liberalise its laws is in contrast to another traditionally Catholic European country, Poland, where the ruling conservative party and still powerful church are seeking to ban most abortions.

Since 1983, the Eighth Amendment had forced women seeking to terminate pregnancies to go overseas for abortions, bear children conceived through rape or incest, or take risky illegal measures at home.

Mrs Halappanavar's death caused global controversy and sparked a campaign to have Ireland's abortion law liberalised.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who campaigned to repeal the laws, had called the vote a once-in-a-generation chance and voters responded by turning out in droves.

"This has been a great exercise in democracy and the people have spoken and the people have said: We want a modern constitution for a modern country, and that we trust women and that we respect them to make the right decisions and the rights choices about their own health care", Varadkar said on Saturday.

The vote removes a 1983 amendment that required Irish authorities to defend the lives of a woman and a foetus equally on nearly all abortions.

He said it will be remembered as "the day Ireland stepped out from under the last of our shadows and into the light".


The law was tweaked in 2013 to allow terminations if the mother's life is at risk.

Halappanavar's father, Andanappa Yalagi, told the Irish Times on Saturday that he and his wife are "really, really happy", and are grateful to all who voted "Yes" in the referendum.

Many people left floral tributes and handwritten notes saying that her death had influenced their decision to vote.

Many went online to share their flight itineraries, and some tweeted photos taken with like-minded voters at airports - most wearing the "Repeal" sweatshirts that became the symbol of the prevailing sentiment.

Death of a 31-year-old Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar is said to have acted as a catalyst in this movement.

"This is a monumental day for women in Ireland", said Orla O'Connor, co-director of the Together for Yes group.

The vote saw citizens effectively opt to either retain or repeal the Eighth Amendment of the state's constitution, which prohibits terminations unless a mother's life is in danger.

Northern Ireland's elected assembly has the right to bring its abortion laws in line with the rest of Britain, but voted against doing so in February 2016 and the assembly has not sat since the devolved government collapsed in January 2017. The doctors concluded that a miscarriage was unavoidable but refused to intervene despite requests from Halappanavar and her husband for an abortion as the country's law did not allow it. Halappanavar's condition deteriorated and she was diagnosed with an infection and subsequent septic shock.

"We revealed a changed Ireland to the world and, more than that, I think we lit a beacon of hope for countries all over the world where people are working toward similar change", she said.

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