Since the country introduced its Eighth Amendment back in 1983, pro-choice Irish women have been fighting to win back their reproductive rights — specifically, their right to an abortion. But people who don't actually live in Ireland are also getting in on the potentially historic moment coming up in the nation. Some anti-choice Americans want to sway Ireland's abortion vote and stop it from becoming legalized. They want to stop it so badly, in fact, that they're flying to Ireland themselves.
"Basically it's a Roe vs. Wade, but Irish style," Emily Faulkner, 23, an American anti-abortion campaigner currently in Dublin, Ireland, told a group of American students, according to CNN. She was trying to convince them to accompany her and her fiance, Nathan Berning, 25, to Ireland.
The couple is the founder of the anti-abortion group Let Them Live and had traveled to Ireland a month leading up to the vote in order to "sway the voters to vote pro-life and hopefully keep Ireland pro-life." And it looks like other Americans had the same idea. According to CNN, members of Irish groups in favor of the repeal have "heard American accents on their doorsteps." One Irish anti-choice group, CNN noted, even flew American anti-abortion activist Claire Culwell to Ireland so she could speak on the issue.
The vote in question is over the Eighth Amendment to the country's constitution which gives a mother and an unborn child "an equal right to life," thus causing an almost complete abortion ban. Although it does make exceptions if the mother's life is at risk from the pregnancy, this amendment is the one of the most rigid in the world in regards to abortion.
Under the Eighth Amendment, an Irish woman has to travel abroad to a country that allows abortion, if she wants to terminate a pregnancy. Another article by CNN details the experience of Julie O'Donnell, an Irish woman who was 29 weeks along when she terminated her pregnancy in England due to fatal defect with her unborn child.
"You have to say you're going to Liverpool Women's Hospital, and they know exactly why," O'Donnell said, reflecting on when the moment she got into a taxi to go have the procedure done. "It's incredibly awkward."
In an opinion piece by for the New York Times, writer Jochen Bittener asserts that upcoming vote on Ireland's Eighth Amendment isn't just about abortion. "Abortion is, of course, an issue that is far from unique to Ireland; it is part of a larger cultural struggle, being fought around the world, over the conviction that liberalism has gone too far." Bittener says. "For anyone in the world anxious to defend — or destroy — that status quo, the next battleground is Ireland. No wonder many Irish feel as comfortable in this referendum campaign as a fly under a magnifying glass."
According to Time, ever since the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was introduced in 2013 the country's abortion laws have been criticized by the United Nations Human Rights Commission for being "cruel and inhumane." The act defines under what conditions abortion can be legally performed in Ireland. A few months after taking office in 2017, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
With American anti-abortion advocates like Let Them Live traveling overseas to sway people's opinions, some Irish people were open to hearing the group out, while others seemed reluctant. Berning described an incident where he handed a flyer to a woman who then tore it up. There was another occasion where a man simply said that they would be voting "no" because he didn't trust politicians.
CNN reported that Facebook would be banning foreign ads related to the referendum vote and that Google would be pausing all ads related to it as well. The decision was met with mixed reviews: pro-repeal groups claimed that it would "level the playing field," while anti abortion groups are accusing it of rigging the election and quieting free speech which would, in turn, "silence" their campaign.
If the vote on May 25 is in favor of the amendment being repealed, the government will most likely legalize abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, Time says.