Ireland votes in referendum to overturn constitutional ban on abortions
People in Ireland on Friday voted in a landmark referendum on whether the traditionally Catholic country should liberalize some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe.
A bitter campaign has dominated public debate in Ireland over recent months as nearly 3.5 million voters are asked whether they want to overturn a constitutional ban on abortion.
The pro-choice campaign had an early lead in opinion polls but lost some of its advantage in recent weeks and experts have predicted the result could be exceptionally close, with many voters still undecided.
People arriving at polling stations on Friday in more traditional rural areas and city centers spoke about the momentousness of a morally complex decision.
Chris Garvin, 20, who works in human resources, said, “I’m not going to try and sway people’s opinions but it’s a very, very important matter and I think it’s going to affect everybody’s lives in some way.”
Ireland has traditionally been one of the most religious countries in Europe. However, the Catholic Church’s influence has waned in recent years following a series of child sex abuse scandals.
The referendum comes three months before a visit by Pope Francis for the World Meeting of Families (WMF) and three years after Ireland voted to legalize same-sex marriage despite the Church’s opposition.
“The fact that it’s illegal for somebody in Ireland to seek medical treatment, having to travel outside the country and to feel that guilt, shame and isolation, it’s absolutely shocking,” said Belinda Nugent, 43, a community activist voting at Lourdes Parish School in Dublin. “I’m going to vote for what I believe in.”
But in the small town of Kilcullen, some 50 kilometers southwest of Dublin, voter Sean Murphy said, “I don’t see any reason to change from the position we are in at the moment.”