Landmark abortion vote in Ireland may change constitution

The forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill promised by ministers could be used as a vehicle for MPs hoping to change the law in Northern Ireland.

Ireland's unique grassroots system called "The Tally" has seen volunteers monitor the contents of ballot boxes as they were being opened at counting centers throughout the country.

"It's incredible. For all the years and years and years we've been trying to look after women and not been able to look after women, this means everything", said Mary Higgins, obstetrician and Together For Yes campaigner.

"This is a once-in-a-generation decision for the Irish people", Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told reporters.

"We will have a modern constitution for a modern country", said Varadkar, who in 2014 said, "I consider myself to be pro-life in that I accept that the unborn child is a human life with rights".

Independent TD Mattie McGrath, who advocated for a No vote, said the support for repeal was not evident to him on the doorsteps during the campaign.

He said there appears to be "a greater than 2-to-1 majority in favor of amending our constitution". "And now the country is saying, 'No, take our hands, we want to support you'".

Irish voters - young and old, male and female, farming types and city-bred folk - endorsed expunging an abortion ban from their largely Catholic country's constitution by a two-to-one margin, referendum results compiled Saturday showed. The pamphlet that includes heartbreaking stories from some of women in Ireland who've had to travel overseas to receive the healthcare they needed?

As the results of Ireland's abortion referendum were announced to rapturous crowds of pro-choice campaigners at Dublin Castle on Saturday, it marked the start of a new era in the country's history.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said Ireland's vote was a "hopeful" day for Northern Ireland.

The vote is a "rejection of an Ireland that treated women as second-class citizens", she said, adding: "This is about women's equality and this day brings massive change, monumental change for women in Ireland, and there is no going back".

Ireland's referendum on abortion is being watched closely by Irish expatriates in Australia, many who are frustrated at their inability to vote.

Katherine Zappone, the minister for children and youth affairs, said she is confident legislation can be approved and put in place before the end of the year.

She said her vote would be one for solidarity and compassion, "a vote to say, I don't send you away anymore". "And because of the eighth amendment I didn't even know where I could turn to for help". The referendum states that abortions should only be performed when the mother's life is in immediate danger, as fetuses have an "equal" right to life. Officials results are expected Saturday afternoon.

"There was just so much solidarity with everyone I saw", Sweeney said. If voters decide to repeal the amendment, lawmakers will consider new laws legalizing abortion. Almost 66.4 percent of voters supported the repeal, in contrast to the 33.6 percent who voted against the repeal. Thousands more order abortion-inducing pills like mifepristone, which are illegally imported into Ireland.

The Government's proposed legislation does not permit abortion on the grounds of pregnancies with diagnosis of disability.

In 2012, a woman named Savita Halappanavar, who was 17 weeks pregnant, died of sepsis (blood poisoning) at Galway University Hospital.

Ireland votes in a historic referendum on abortion on Friday (May 25).

"If this feels isolating for me, can't imagine how lonely it must be 4 her, travelling 2 the United Kingdom", wrote Gaffney, referring to women who travel to England to have abortions.

If the "yes" forces seeking a constitutional change prevail, Ireland's parliament will be charged with coming up with new abortion laws.

  • Rogelio Becker