May 29, 2018
With exception of the Brexit vote, there has not been a referendum as important in recent years in Europe as that of the Yes campaign on May 25 that legalized abortion in Ireland. The massive win defeated some of the most draconian anti-abortion laws in the world.
An Amnesty International factsheet on anti-abortion legislation in Ireland provides a clear picture of the horrendous punishment Irish women would endure for decades:
Any woman who has an abortion in Ireland faces up to 14 years in prison. The only case in which a woman is legally allowed to terminate her pregnancy, is when her life is deemed to be in immediate danger of death. That’s it.
Women who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest would be prosecuted for terminating a pregnancy, if they are not seen to be at immediate risk of death. If her health is at risk, but her condition not deemed fatal, then having an abortion is a criminal offence.
The grassroots Yes campaign put an end—for the time being—to the Irish Catholic Church’s hegemony on social issues since the Irish people had already voted to make same –sex marriage a reality in 2015. However, in one part of the Irish nation, Northern Ireland which is still under British rule, anti-abortion legislation remains a fact of life. There, activists hope to capitalize in the yes victory.
Meanwhile, some conservative clergy are using the unexpected turn of events to instill fear. On May 28, Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran said that those who voted yes should "consider coming to confession".
But the Church and conservative politicians failed to recognize the changes within Irish society.
In fact, the Yes campaign brought together disparate segments from Irish society, creating unity among sectors affected by decades of conservatism. The Irish Times’s Una Mullally observed that “The brilliantly eclectic make-up of the campaign brought in doctors, mothers, lawyers, students, trade unionists, the LGBT community, feminists, and everyone in between.”
Below are some reactions on social media: