Ireland Votes to Repeal Abortion Ban

To the disappointment of pro-lifers, early results show more than 69 percent of Irish citizens voted 'Yes' in the referendum that effectively legalized abortion in the country.

2018 Save 8 Rally
2018 Save 8 Rally (photo: Courtesy of the Save the Eighth Campaign.)

DUBLIN, Ireland —Early results on Saturday morning are projecting the repeal of the abortion ban in Ireland, a decision pro-life groups are calling tragic and disappointing.

Exit polls by the RTÉ are projecting 69.4 percent of citizens voted on May 25 against keeping the Eighth Amendment, which recognizes the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn child, in the Republic of Ireland’s constitution, while 30.6 percent voted to keep it, according to the BBC. 

80 percent of the votes have been counted, according to the New York Times, but official results are expected on Saturday evening.

“The result of today’s referendum is a profound tragedy for the Irish people and the entire world,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, in a May 26 press release.

“While other Western nations including the United States acquiesced to the extreme abortion lobby, Ireland has been a shining beacon of hope for its strong defense of unborn children and their mothers,” Dannenfelser continued, adding that “we are filled with sorrow at this outcome.”

A statement from the Save the 8th campaign, a group which fought against the legalization of abortion in Ireland, called the vote a “tragedy of historic proportions,” but commended those who stood up for the right to life, saying “we are so proud of all those who stood with us in this campaign.”

The campaign additionally noted that they would continue fighting for the right to life in Ireland, saying that “every time an unborn child has his or her life ended in Ireland, we will oppose that, and make our voices known.”

“Abortion was wrong yesterday. It remains wrong today. The constitution has changed, but the facts have not,” the statement continued.

Under current law, the practice of abortion in Ireland is illegal, unless the mother’s life is deemed to be endangered. The Eighth Amendment was passed in Ireland in 1983, with upwards of 67 percent voter-approval. It reads, in part: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

A “Yes” vote on the  referendum would remove the pro-life 1983 Amendment from the constitution and replace it with a provision allowing for “the regulation of termination of pregnancy.” 

Several Irish lawmakers had previously said that if the referendum successfully repealed the Eighth Amendment, they would propose legislation allowing unlimited abortion up to three months into pregnancy, and up to six months into pregnancy in cases where there might be risk to a mother’s physical or mental health.

Despite the high percentage of the population — 78 percent — that identifies as Catholic, polling was split in the weeks leading up to the vote.

On March 9 the Irish bishops had released a pastoral message on the right to life, entitled “Two Lives, One Love.” 

They warned that changing the Irish Constitution would serve no purpose other than to withdraw the right to life from some categories of unborn children.

“To do so would radically change the principle, for all unborn children and indeed for all of us, that the right to life is a fundamental human right,” they said.