Britain’s role in Ireland’s upcoming abortion referendum cannot be underestimated

Theresa May and Leo Varadkar
Support us and go ad-free

Irish women choosing an abortion are essentially subject to British abortion law. Because abortion is effectively illegal in Ireland, so the UK is the most feasible place for Irish women to have one. But all this could change on 25 May, as the Irish hold a referendum that could legalise abortion.

Abortion in Ireland

Following a referendum in 1983, the Eighth Amendment was inserted into the Irish Constitution. This effectively made it illegal for women to have an abortion there.

Prior to the 1983 referendum, there was nothing specifically dealing with abortion in the Irish Constitution. So the Irish state relied upon sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

Consequences

As the UK’s 1967 Abortion Act was not extended to Northern Ireland, abortion north of the border isn’t an option either. This contributed to 168,703 Irish women from the south of Ireland travelling to the UK to have an abortion between 1980 and 2016. It also created a situation whereby Irish women went to dangerous lengths in order to have an abortion.

Abortion referendum and legal outcomes

On 25 May, Irish people are being asked whether they wish to keep or repeal the Eighth Amendment. A majority ‘Yes’ vote means abortion could become legal in Ireland. A ‘No’ vote would maintain the status quo.

In the event of a ‘Yes’ vote, the Irish government has promised legislation. This will allow unrestricted abortions up to 12 weeks of the pregnancy. After that period, abortion will be still possible if there is a risk to the life or health of the mother, or a fatal foetal abnormality.

Hard Brexit

While the ‘Yes’ side looks set to win the abortion referendum, its lead over the ‘No’ side has been narrowing. Should that trend continue, the consequences could be disastrous for Irish women in a hard Brexit scenario.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

While a compromise travel agreement may be reached between Ireland and the UK, it’s still unclear what will happen. A hard Brexit could [paywall] lead to Irish women having limited feasible choice for abortion. Travel restrictions would add further to the difficulty of Irish women choosing an abortion.

What next for Irish women

If Irish voters at home and abroad get as involved as they did during the marriage equality referendum in 2015, this could confirm a majority ‘Yes’ vote on 25 May.

A ‘No’ vote maintains the status quo, and keeps Irish women at the mercy of British law. A hard Brexit would then be unthinkable for Irish women.

Get Involved!

Join The Canary, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.

– Contact the abortion rights campaign in Ireland.

– Can I vote? Check the register here.

Featured image via EU 2017EE – Flickr / EU 2017EE – Flickr

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed