Many Irish citizens were ready at the polls at 7 a.m. on Friday as the once deeply Catholic and pro-life country began voting in a referendum on its abortion laws. Up for repeal was the 35-year-old Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution, which bans abortion by giving equal rights to the unborn but was softened in 2013 to allow the procedure in cases where the mother’s life is at stake.
In 1983, about two-thirds of Irish voters propelled the amendment into law. Now, the country is split on the controversial issue, with the pro-repeal cohort thought to have a slight edge over the pro-life camp.
Ireland is 78 percent Catholic, and Church doctrine holds that abortion is the killing of a child. But some non-religious voters have boosted the anti-repeal campaign, too.
“I Voted No as did my husband (unwanted and adopted) my beautiful daughter (a crisis pregnancy) and my son (his 1st vote),” wrote one Twitter user. “Abortion doesn’t empower us.”
And I’m an atheist too. 😉 It’s not about religion.
It’s about the most basic fundamental human right, to life.#8thref
— R.G. Lawless (@r_roisinlawless) May 25, 2018
Activists in Ireland and overseas led energetic campaigns for and against legalizing abortion for weeks ahead of the vote.
“Ours is not a country where women die, are denied opportunities, or are forced to become parents,” Declan Ganley, an Irish entrepreneur and a prominent voice for the #Savethe8th campaign wrote in the Washington Examiner. “It is, however, a country where abortion is not the first solution presented to a mother, and where she is encouraged and supported to make a more life-affirming choice.”
The #HometoVote campaign on social media encouraged thousands of Irish citizens living abroad or vacationing to fly home and vote since Ireland does not allow absentee voting.
Polls will close at 10 p.m. local time.