Published: Mon, May 28, 2018
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

Where Did Ireland Go? Abortion Vote Stuns Those on Both Sides

Where Did Ireland Go? Abortion Vote Stuns Those on Both Sides

Irish voters overwhelmingly came out to repeal a 35-year-old constitutional ban on abortions Friday, with 66.4 per cent casting "yes" ballots in the historic referendum.

Like many Irish expatriates who returned home to vote, Coogan says she was motivated by a desire to, in her words, "create a better Ireland for our generation should we want to return, but (also) for the generations that are going to follow us".

In 2012, 31-year-old dentist Savita Halappanavar died from a septic miscarriage after being denied an abortion in Ireland - an tragic, cruel incident that helped spur the campaign to repeal the country's ultra-restrictive stance on abortion, codified in the Eighth Amendment. As a result, Irish women would wished to terminate their pregnancies had to seek illegal options within the country - at the risk of being thrown in jail for 14 years - or travel overseas.

Leading Ireland-based campaigners said they will support a move to have the new law named after Savita, whose Karnataka-based father, Andanappa Yalagi, has called for it to be referred to as "Savita's Law".

Once implemented, the referendum will allow abortions through the 12th week of pregnancy, or the end of the first trimester.

"A quiet revolution has taken place, a great act of democracy", Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said, hailing a "remarkable" day.

"I think what we've seen today really is a culmination of a quiet revolution that has been taking place in Ireland for the past 10 or 20 years", Varadkar told BBC Saturday.

With the vote decided, attention is turning to Ireland's parliament, which will make new laws to govern abortions.

Abortions are now only legal in Northern Ireland if the life or mental health of the mother is at risk.

Its repeal will mark a significant victory for women's rights in Ireland. Many traveled overseas to undergo the procedure, and others bought pills online.

DUP party chairman Lord Morrow
Image DUP chairman Lord Morrow has warned of 'consequences'

May tweeted on Sunday to "congratulate the Irish people on their decision" but she made no mention of what the result would mean for Northern Ireland.

Her death in October 2012 reignited a fierce debate over abortion in Ireland and ultimately led to the campaign for a referendum.

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

Many gathered at the Savita Halappanavar mural as the results of the vote were counted.

Some supporters had tears of joy running down their cheeks, and many women hugged each other.

Official counting for Friday's referendum on whether or not to liberalize Ireland's abortion laws was still under way, and final results are not expected until Saturday afternoon.

"Pushing the country forward in any way we could was a worthwhile cause", said Stephen Purcell, an Ireland native who now lives in Boston.

"Poll after poll has shown in the north, much like it did in the south, that between 62-72% people in every one of the polls is in favour of a change to the law", she said.

"Women would travel to England, alone and scared, and have abortions with no after care", O'Brien said in an email.

As momentum grew, the Irish government was forced to put a vote on legalizing abortion to the people.

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