Ireland Votes to Liberalize Abortion Law

On May 25, Ireland voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland, with 66.4 percent of voters authorizing the Irish Parliament to legalize abortion in the Republic. Men and women of all ages, across urban and rural centers alike, voiced widespread support for the repeal in a country that is nearly 80 percent Catholic. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar praised the result, offering it as evidence that the people of Ireland “trust and respect women to make their own decisions and choices.” The Catholic hierarchy spoke out in opposition, however, with Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran saying those who voted for the repeal “should consider coming to confession.” Health Minister Simon Harris plans to draft legislation generally allowing abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy—and within the first 24 weeks in certain circumstances—that is expected to be implemented by the end of the year. Attention now turns to Northern Ireland, which remains the only part of Europe other than the island nation of Malta in which abortion is illegal. More than 170 politicians from Belfast, Dublin and London have written to the UK government urging the repeal of the sections of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act that criminalize abortion in Northern Ireland.

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