Women should have the right to do what they wish with their bodies, but some countries and areas wish to take this away by either making abortion illegal or not accessible. Fortunately, Ireland is no longer one of those countries.
On May 26, Ireland voted overwhelmingly to repeal the eighth amendment in a referendum by a significant 66.4%. The eighth amendment restricted women from getting abortions if their lives were put at risk. Ireland did not allow abortion if a woman became pregnant through rape, a fetus was a result of incest, or if there were potentially fatal abnormalities. One constituency, Donegal, voted against repealing the eighth amendment, but with a slight majority of 51%.
Here is a timeline of events and rulings related to abortion in Ireland, which is somewhat brief in comparison to how much advocacy women have put into fighting for reproductive rights for over a century. In 1861, abortion was declared illegal. In 1986, the eighth amendment passed, which still maintained that abortion was illegal, but allowed women to get abortions if a pregnancy put their life at risk. In 1992, two amendments related to abortion passed: (1) women are able to travel outside of Ireland to receive abortions, and (2) women are allowed to receive information about abortion services outside of Ireland. In 2002, Irish vote to keep the threat of suicide as reasoning for an abortion. In 2014, the United Nations Human Rights Committee criticizes Ireland’s stance on abortion. In 2018, the eighth amendment is repealed.
Unfortunately, Northern Ireland (the constituency of Donegal), at this time, will still deny women the access to reproductive rights. Prime Minister Theresa May reportedly refuses to intervene to allow Northern Irish women the right to have an abortion, which seems to show the priority of trying to appeal to her conservative backing than to promote women’s rights.
This seems to be only the first step in ensuring women’s reproductive rights. Irish Prime Minister Varadka recently drafted a bill that would remove all restrictions on abortions for the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, with extensions being considered under special circumstances. I am a tad jealous of Ireland’s leader advocating for reproductive rights, considering actions that the current United States government has taken to try and limit access to abortions, contraceptives, and other things that women need to have control over their reproductive rights by attempting to defund and defame Planned Parenthood.
Access to medically supervised and safe abortions are crucial, as women have and had throughout history dangerous and potentially fatal abortions if they do not have to safe ones. According to World Health Organization, 68,000 women die annually from unsafe abortions and seven million are hospitalized, so governments should do whatever it takes to prevent avoidable deaths, namely by legalizing abortions.
The luck of the Irish was with the people who voted to legalize abortions. Hopefully, this luck will be with all people, women and their allies, who are fighting to have reproductive rights.