Identity

Ireland Goes to The Polls for High-Stakes Vote on Abortion Rights

"I say yes," a social worker voting to repeal Ireland's Eighth Amendment tells Broadly. "You have to understand other people’s lives. You don’t know what they’re facing."

by Brian O'Flynn
May 25 2018, 1:55pm

All photos by Brian O'Flynn

This week, Ireland votes on whether it will repeal the Eighth Amendment, which denies women the right to an abortion in all circumstances except in cases where her life is in danger. In the run-up to this historic vote, Broadly will be giving a platform to the victims of this inhumane law and the activists fighting for change. You can follow our coverage ahead of Friday's vote here .

Today, the people of Ireland are turning out to vote on whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment. Inserted into the Irish constitution in 1983, the draconian piece of legislation gives an “equal right to life” to a woman and her fetus, and has effectively prohibited abortion in the country for the last 35 years.

In later years, two more amendments were inserted to allow access to information about abortion and give the freedom to travel for abortion—an onerous, traumatizing process for the thousands of women who make the trip abroad every year.

If the Irish public vote yes to repealing the Eighth, these amendments will also disappear. Instead, they will be replaced by a simple statement: “Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.” This will effectively lift Ireland’s ban on abortion. Figures from exit polls will be announced on national broadcaster RTÉ tonight around 11.30 PM in Ireland. The final result is expected to be known by midday on Saturday, with the official announcement to be made around 4 PM.

Today’s vote is the culmination of 35 years of campaigning by Irish women. In recent months, the final charge has been led by Together for Yes and the Abortion Rights Campaign, assisted by fundraising efforts such as the Repeal Project. Broadly caught up with yes voters at the polling stations to find out what their hopes and fears are for the vote.

KIM YOUNG, 28, CHEF

I hope that it passes so that women finally have control over their own bodies again and so that they don’t need to leave their country to be looked after. If it didn’t pass it would be crushing, because of how much everyone’s put into it and because we’d have to go through another ten years of this. It would be such a kick in the teeth because we’ve come so far. I live down in Connemara—I think it will be an awful lot tighter there than in the city.

SUZANNE FINNEGAN, 34, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST & CIARA HUDSON, 29, ASSISTANT PSYCHOLOGIST

Hudson: I hope that there’ll be a yes vote. I’m afraid there’ll be a no vote and so many women will feel like they don’t belong in this country.

Finnegan: It’s moving forward versus moving backwards. I don’t think there’s any option to stay in the same place that we were. I’ve been trying to figure out what I’d do if there’s a no vote. I really don’t know. I think it’ll be very difficult. I don’t know how we’re gonna deal with that. I think this is the only chance that we’ll get to vote on this in our generation. I think there’d be a lot of very angry, disappointed people.

Hudson: I think in the last few months in Ireland, women’s healthcare and rights have been very much to the fore, and I think a yes vote would be a validation that all of the heartbreak and courage has been worth it.

Finnegan: It would be a relief—that Ireland is ready to move forward.

HOLLY PEREIRA, 36, ILLUSTRATOR

I fear that it won’t pass. Everyone feels a bit sick yesterday and today, I think. I would be really pissed if it didn’t. I’m not sure if I want to be in a country where it didn’t pass. I’d consider moving. But I hope that it will pass and women will be treated like actual human beings. It would feel fantastic. But even then it’s not over yet, it’s a very small step—women need to be seen as more than just wives and mothers.

STEVEN DUNNE, 37, ACCOUNT MANAGER

I’ve had family and friends who’ve had to go to England for abortions in the past for medical reasons. I know it’s never going to impact me personally but I think it’s important that women get the choice. I fear it won’t pass, but if it doesn’t I don’t think it will be the end. I feel like it will go to the European Court of Human Rights or something. I’d be elated if it passed. It would be a real step forward for Ireland.

DYLAN COBURN-GRAY, 26, WRITER & VERONICA COBURN, 53, WRITER

Coburn: I hope it passes, and if it did, I would feel fantastic. It would mean we are finally on a mature path as a society, that we’ve become a society capable of rational thought and progress. I just think it’s a practical step. If it didn’t [pass], I would want to leave the country.

Coburn-Gray: I just really hope it passes. If it doesn’t, it’s gonna feel like a slap in the face. The Together for Yes side have really come out and told their stories honestly, which has been an unimaginably hard thing for people to do. I don’t know how you could listen and not vote yes.

ESTHER LAMIDI, 35, SOCIAL CARE WORKER & STUDENT

I say yes. You have to understand other people’s lives. You don’t know what they’re facing. There are some pregnancies when people need abortion to save the woman’s life. Abortion is everywhere—it’s in Nigeria. At the end of the day, it also saves souls. Many people go to England, people of all kinds of religion—if they know that they don’t want the child, especially kids who are 16 or 17 and get pregnant in school, we need to understand those lives. Everyone’s situation is different.

NIAMH FLEMING, 48, TOWN PLANNER (pictured with her son)

My hopes are that there’ll be a very strong yes today. I hope that there’ll be a very strong turnout, that’s important. I think the yes voters are all gonna come out today and we’re all gonna vote. If it was a no, I’d feel quite sad, quite upset that there are still people who aren’t thinking about women’s lives. People in other countries will all look at this—after the gay marriage referendum, people were proud of us and saw us as a different country, a new country. I think if this is a no vote, that could change back again.

ANDREW BLACK, 52, POKER PLAYER (pictured with son Freddie)

It will be a yes vote. Ireland is gradually changing. A friend of mine is gay and his father is a definite no vote, but his grandmother is a secret yes voter. So he had a bit of a laugh about it behind his father’s back with his grandmother. I think there are a lot of stories like that—it’s really encouraging. I don’t think it’s gonna be a no vote. I think it’s gonna pass by nine or ten percent.