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Ireland's Abortion Referendum

06 June 18

With a margin of 66.4% for yes to 33.6% for no and on a record turnout of 64.51%, Ireland has voted to repeal the eighth amendment of the constitution, which since 1983 has effectively prohibited abortion in most circumstances. Abortions carried out up to 24 weeks have been legal in England, Wales and Scotland since the 1967 Abortion Act but are unlawful in Northern Ireland unless the mother’s life or health is at stake. The Irish Government now intends to allow terminations within the first 12 weeks in the event.

It’s important to note that repeal does not mean abortion will automatically become legal. In order for that to happen, Ireland’s parliament will have to pass a law repealing the country’s statutory ban on abortion, which exists separately from the constitutional one, and set up a new system for regulated abortion.

Abortion has been illegal in Ireland since at least 1861, when a ban was imposed by British authorities, and remained illegal after Ireland became independent in the early 20th century. But Ireland only took the extreme step of putting an abortion ban in the constitution in 1983, a reaction to the gains of the feminist movement in Ireland.

This strict regulation had a number of unintended consequences. For one, Irish women began flying to Britain to get abortions. Between 1980 and 2016, roughly 170,000 Irish women traveled abroad to get an abortion.