Ireland votes to repeal part of constitutional ban on abortion, enact new legislation

UPDATE — 1:55 p.m. EDT: With all ballots counted from Friday’s vote, tallies from Ireland’s Referendum Commission show over 66 percent supported striking a constitutional amendment which essentially outlawed abortion.

With turnout extraordinarily high for a ballot initiative at 64 percent, only one remote county in the country’s north voted against the measure. 


By a wide margin on Friday, voters in traditionally conservative Republic of Ireland turned out to overturn part of the country’s ban on abortion.

Exit polls late Friday suggested the “Yes” vote ran as high as 70 percent.

Similarly, exit polling also showed the strongest support to repeal the law existed withing the age group if 18–24 year olds.  In contrast, those 65 and older voted to keep the ban in place.

Ireland currently has some of Europe’s most-prohibitive abortion laws, restrictions which have witnessed over 100,000 travel abroad to receive abortions in the past three decades.

Commenting on the vote as returns revealed strong support to repeal the Eighth Amendment, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, the first openly gay, ethnic minority to hold public office in Dublin said:

“What we’ve seen is the culmination of a quiet revolution that’s been taking place in Ireland over the past 20 years.  The people have spoken. They have said we need a modern constitution for a modern country.”

The vote follows Irish residents casting ballots favoring same-sex marriages three years ago.

Although the referendum does not repeal abortion, the dismantling of the Eighth Amendment ends equal rights for mother and the unborn.

Ahead of the plebiscite, the Irish government had proposed if the vote favored a repeal of the constitutional law, Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish Assembly, would enter legislation allowing abortions to occur up to 12 weeks, and between 12 and 14 weeks in certain cases.

The law underwent a minor change in 2013 to allow the procedure in cases of danger to a mother’s life.

Following a 1983 referendum that approved outlawing the procedure, the Irish constitution was amended to prohibit abortion, the penalty for which carried up to a 14 year prison sentence.

Only four European jurisdictions and three other countries around the world now still have laws which outlaw abortion: Vatican City, Malta, Andorra and San Marino; Nicaragua, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic.


[BBC] [USA Today] [CNN] [Photo courtesy Barry Cronin/AFP]