Irish people vote Yes – abortion laws changing

Irish people voted on Friday to ditch the country’s strict abortion laws.

The landslide result overwhelmingly supported repealing the 1983 constitutional ban on abortions.

The referendum results showed that among 2.1 million votes cast, 1.4 million were in favour of repealing the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment.

The Amendment says a mother and unborn child have an “equal right to life.”

About 723,000 voters wanted to retain the ban.

In a Facebook post, Save the Eighth activist John McGuirk said he was “broken-hearted” over the result.

Addressing fellow No campaigners, he said: “Today will be a hard and difficult day, but hold your heads high. It is never wrong to speak up for what you believe in.

“It is wrong to stay silent, and especially wrong to stay silent when the crowd is totally against you.”

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who is a medical doctor, campaigned for ending the ban.

He hailed the result as a “quiet revolution.”

“The people have said that we want a modern Constitution for a modern country, that we trust women and we respect them to make the right decision and the right choices about their healthcare,” Varadkar said.

The proposed legislation will allow abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Abortions will also be allowed up to the 24th week in exceptional circumstances.

Irish Minister for Health, Simon Harris, will seek the cabinet’s backing on Tuesday to draft the new legislation.

Northern Ireland has similarly strict abortion laws. UK Prime Minister Theresa May is now facing calls to make changes to these laws.

Northern Ireland will soon become the only part of the UK and Ireland with an almost blanket ban on terminations.

At Dublin Castle on Saturday, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and her deputy Michelle O’Neill held up a sign saying “The north is next.”

Conservative MP Penny Mordaunt, who is responsible for the women and equalities brief in the British government, said the referendum signalled a “historic and great day for Ireland” and a “hopeful one for Northern Ireland.”

Until the law is changed, seeking or providing an abortion in Ireland will continue to be a criminal offence that carries up to 14 years in jail.

Between 1980 and 2016, more than 170,000 women travelled from Ireland to access abortion services in another country, according to the Irish Family Planning Association.

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