The Irish Prime Minister has said his country has witnessed a “quiet revolution”, after the country voted for dramatic abortion reform. Exit polls have suggested a landslide victory for the Yes campaign, with many young people and undecided voters having swayed the vote on polling day. Over 3.2 million people were registered to vote in the referendum. It is expected that up to 70% of people who voted supported reforming the abortion laws.
The referendum was about the Eighth Amendment, which was introduced after a referendum in 1983. The law stated that it acknowledges the right to life of the unborn, and therefore saying that the meaning of life of the women and the unborn were equal.
If a women had an illegal abortion in Ireland, that was not because the mother’s life was at risk, the maximum penalty was a 14 year jail sentence.
However, views have significantly changed since 1983, and with many young people regarding the eighth amendment as old-fashioned and unfair, it was only a matter of time before the eighth amendment would have anothern referendum.
The question on the ballot paper asked “Do you approve of the proposal to amend the Constitution contained in the undermentioned Bill?”. Those who wanted to keep the Eighth Amendment would vote No, and those who want change would vote Yes.
Exit polls from RTE and Newspapers have shown that at least 68% of people asked have voted Yes. The current Irish government supported reform, and have revealed plans that they would permit abortions of up to 12 weeks.
After the exit polls were released, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar, said it looked as if the country was about to “make history”.
John McGuirk, one of the main anti-abortion campaigners had already concended defeats saying “The unborn child no longer has a right to life recognised by the Irish state,”.
However, Irish health minister Simon Harris tweeted on Friday evening after the vote: “Will sleep tonight in the hope of waking up to a country that is more compassionate, more caring and more respectful”
This was undoubtedly a passionate, and divisive campaign. Ireland is a proud Catholic nation, and although it seems to be a landslide victory for the Yes campaign, there will certainly be tensions moving forward.