Abortion in Ireland is illegal unless it occurs as the result of a medical intervention performed to save the life of the woman. The right to life of the unborn is protected by the Eighth Amendment. The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act of 2013 provides for an offence of destroying unborn life with exceptions only in the case of a risk to the life of the woman, including a risk of suicide.
There were unsuccessful referendums in 1992 and in 2002 which would have overturned this decision and removed the risk of suicide as a ground for an abortion. Irish abortion law received worldwide attention on the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012, who had been denied an abortion while suffering a septic miscarriage. The maximum penalty for accessing an illegal abortion is 14 years in prison.
Now, in 2018 and in a stunning rebuke to the Catholic Church, Ireland has voted by a landslide margin to change the constitution so that abortion can be legalized, according to an exit poll conducted for The Irish Times by Ipsos/MRBI. The poll suggests that the margin of victory for the Yes side in the referendum will be 68 per cent to 32 per cent.
The New Yorker reports that the Catholic Church’s hold in Ireland has weakened, following years of revelations about child sexual abuse perpetrated by priests and about the Church’s mistreatment of “fallen women,” who had become pregnant out of wedlock.
Thousands of women left Ireland every year to have the procedure done in another country or attempting to do it themselves which proves the fact that banning abortion couldn’t stop abortions. It only makes women’s lives more complicated.
Irish health minister Simon Harris tweeted: "Will sleep tonight in the hope of waking up to a country that is more compassionate, more caring and more respectful." On the other side, prominent No campaigner Cora Sherlock expressed disappointment at the exit polls but said the pro-life movement would "rise to any challenge it faces." She added: "Let's go into tomorrow with this in mind."
If a majority has voted yes - as appears to be the case - then the Irish government's recommendation is that women will be able to access a termination within the first 12 weeks of their pregnancy. However, beyond 12 weeks, abortions would only be permitted where there is a risk to a woman's life or of serious harm to the physical or mental health of a woman, up until the 24th week of pregnancy. Terminations would also be permitted in cases of fatal fetal abnormality.
The official results are expected early on Saturday evening and let’s hope the Yes side will win.
Photo Credits: EWN Eyewitness News