Ire­land ends abor­tion ban as “quiet revo­lu­tion” trans­forms coun­try

Stabroek News Sunday - - WORLD NEWS -

DUBLIN, (Reuters) - Ire­land’s prime min­is­ter yes­ter­day hailed the cul­mi­na­tion of “a quiet revo­lu­tion” in what was once one of Europe’s most so­cially con­ser­va­tive coun­tries after a land­slide ref­er­en­dum vote to lib­er­alise highly re­stric­tive laws on abor­tion.

Vot­ers in the once deeply Catholic na­tion backed the change by two-toone, a far higher mar­gin than any opin­ion poll in the run up to the vote had pre­dicted, and al­lows the gov­ern­ment to bring in leg­is­la­tion by the end of the year.

“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.

For decades, the law forced over 3,000 women to travel to Bri­tain each year for ter­mi­na­tions and “Yes” cam­paign­ers ar­gued that with others now or­der­ing pills il­le­gally on­line, abor­tion was al­ready a re­al­ity in Ire­land.

The cam­paign was de­fined by women pub­licly shar­ing their painful ex­pe­ri­ences of leav­ing the coun­try for pro­ce­dures, a key rea­son why all but one of Ire­land’s 40 con­stituen­cies voted “Yes”.

Prime Min­is­ter Leo Varad­kar, who cam­paigned to re­peal the laws, had called the vote a once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion chance and vot­ers re­sponded by turn­ing out in droves. A turnout of 64 per­cent was one of the high­est for a ref­er­en­dum.

“To­day is an his­toric day for Ire­land. A quiet revo­lu­tion has taken place,” Varad­kar, who be­came Ire­land’s first openly gay prime min­is­ter last year, said in a speech after the vote.

“Ev­ery­one de­serves a sec­ond chance. This is Ire­land’s sec­ond chance to treat ev­ery­one equally and with com­pas­sion and re­spect. We have voted to look re­al­ity in the eye and we did not blink.”

The out­come is a new mile­stone on a path of change for a coun­try which only le­galised di­vorce by a ra­zor thin ma­jor­ity in 1995 be­fore be­com­ing the first in the world to adopt gay mar­riage by pop­u­lar vote three years ago. The once-mighty Catholic Church took a back seat through­out the cam­paign.

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