The Republic of Ireland’s referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment to its Consitution which gave an equal right to life to both the mother and the unborn has passed. 1.4 million voters or 66.4% of total votes cast voted yes while 723,000 or 33.2% of the total votes cast voted no. Voter turnout was at 64.13%. The Eighth Amendment which had the effect of only permitting abortion if it threatened the life of the mother will be replaced by the Thirty-sixth Amendment to the Constitution which states “Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy”.
The Irish Parliament had already prepared legislation should the referendum pass which would permit abortion if there is a risk to the health of the woman, a medical emergency, a fetal abnormality or up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. A yes vote was supported by all of Ireland’s four major political parties; Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin with the repeal process headed by current Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
Polling leading up to the referendum had yes on average 10 points ahead but often failing to get over 50% of those polled. However, the exit polls pointed to a yes result winning by 69%. Even before the votes were counted the no side conceded defeat. The explanation for this disparity in the polling and the actual result has been speculated that many Irish people did not want to tell a pollster they were voting yes but in the privacy of the voting booth did so. This is the opposite of what is known as the shy Tory factor where many people do not tell pollsters they are voting for conservative candidates or conservative proposition. This theory would imply that many who voted yes still know deep down abortion is morally wrong and as such did not want to share their view.
The reporting of the referendum result by the mainstream media around the world has hailed the ‘historic vote’ echoing the words of Leo Varadkar who also described the vote as the culmination of a “quiet revolution” in Ireland. There has been much commentary about Ireland completing its transition to a modern secular nation adding to this referndum the vote in 2015 to legalise same-sex marriage and the vote to legalise no-fault divorce in 1995. News reports have also claimed the vote is a death blow to the influence of the Catholic Church in Ireland who have largely stayed out of the two most recent referendums.
The Irish no campaign Save the 8th put out a statement following the result calling it a “tragedy of historic proportions” with their spokesperson John McGuirk saying that no campaigners were “deeply broken-hearted” as “The unborn child no longer has a right to life recognised by the Irish state,” however the no campaign accepts the result of the referendum but will continue to believe abortion is wrong.
The vote is also seen as a victory for the pro-abortion movement worldwide as it strengths their hand advocating for greater access to abortion services in western countries which including allowing abortion up until birth, erecting exclusion zones around abortion clinics as well as more taxpayer funding for abortion services and other restrictions on pro-life speech. One suspects now that they have conquered Ireland they will move to removing the protections for the unborn in Latin America and other Catholic nations such as the Philippines.
The immediate reaction in the neighbouring United Kingdom is that British Prime Minister Theresa May should lobby neighbouring Northern Ireland and her Coalition partner the Democratic Unionist Party to liberalise its abortion laws. Abortion is only permitted in Northern Ireland if there is a probable serious and long-term risk to the mental or physical health of the woman.
This result is certainly a setback for the pro-life movement and has been upsetting for many pro-life advocates worldwide. Ireland although its proposed abortion laws are at a stricter end of the scale it has begun the slippery slope on abortion we have seen in Australia where in some states abortion is permitted for any reason up until birth. Certainly the battle for life will continue to be a difficult one.