On May 25th, voters in the Republic of Ireland or Southern Ireland have voted overwhelmingly by a landslide to repeal the Eighth Amendment of its own national constitution. This particular amendment banned the usage or practice of abortion with the exception of the woman’s life being at a medical risk, however, it did not permit the reproductive healthcare procedure in any legitimate cases of rape, incest, or fatal fetal abnormalities. Citizens eligible to vote who lived in the country as domestic residents or outside the country as residents abroad turned out to vote by more than 64%. Out of the more than 2 million votes cast in the national referendum, 66.4% voted yes to abolish the amendment and 33.6% voted no for its repeal. Nearly every county in the country, with the exception of Donegal County to the north, voted for the amendment’s repeal.
The history of abortion on the island has been a long battle before, during, and after its own independence from the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Starting in 1861, abortion was banned statutorily under the Offences Against the Person Act, more than 50 years before the creation of independent Ireland between the late 1910s and the early 1920s. The Eighth Amendment, which recognized the life of an unborn human child, was passed by a constitutional referendum 35 years ago in 1983. After many recent years of concerns over women dying or traveling out of the country to access such services, between 2017 and 2018, the center-right government under Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, the country’s first multi-racial and openly gay head of government, have decided to allow the referendum on the constitutional amendment’s repeal to be set for May.
This historic vote reflects changing demographics on the historically Catholic island country as more younger and secular people living in cities, such as the capital city of Dublin, are becoming more progressive on critical social issues. Three years ago in 2015, Irish voters decided in large numbers to legalize marriage equality or same-sex marriage. Other issues that have been not addressed yet between the government and the citizenry may include the decriminalization of drugs, legalization of cannabis, or euthanasia for terminally ill patients. Northern Ireland, a British constituent country, remains the only place in the British Isles where abortion is illegal and same-sex marriage is not recognized due to the social conservatism of mostly older Protestant Christian residents and some Catholic Christian citizens as well.
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