Abortion has been illegal in Ireland since 1983, when the national constitution was amended to equate an unborn child's right to life with a pregnant mother's. Now, a historic referendum taking place on Friday is giving the country its first chance to abolish the ban. Many Irish expats are flying #HomeToVoteYes to repeal the amendment and legalize abortion.
In the United States, any citizen living abroad is entitled to submit an absentee ballot for general and primary elections, and some states also allow absentee votes for local races and referendums. But the Irish system is much stricter.
Irish citizens are not allowed to cast any votes from abroad except under very special circumstances, like being a diplomat or a member of the military. Instead, they must travel home and cast ballots in person. Citizens who have been abroad for over 18 months or have no intention of coming back to live in the country within 18 months are considered to have forfeited their Irish residency and aren't allowed to vote.
The London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign created the #HomeToVote campaign to mobilize Irish expats who are still eligible to vote. It estimates that around 40,000 of the 750,000 Irish citizens abroad meet the criteria, according to The Irish Times.
And indeed, significant numbers of expats seem to have traveled home to vote, based on the numerous stories picked up by the media and the #HomeToVoteYes tweets flooding social media. Here are some election-day tweets from those who traveled the world to cast a vote on Friday.
Remembering The Reverse Trip
Many noted the symbolic weight of coming #HomeToVoteYes when so many Irish women have been forced to leave the country to get abortions for decades. According to The Guardian, about 3,500 Irish women are thought to travel abroad for an abortion every year.
It's Often A Costly Journey
Ireland's low-budget airlines undoubtedly helped many afford the trip back.
Some Are Making The Journey Alone
Irish citizens are allowed to vote until 10 p.m. local time on Friday.
Others Are Making It In Groups
The London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign greeted many folks coming off the plane who'd returned #HomeToVoteYes.
Coming From Edinburgh
A 200-mile journey.
Nearly 300 miles.
From New York City
Almost 3,200 miles.
Nearly 800 miles.
Around 1,400 miles.
A whopping 6,800 miles.
Even Those At Home Are Helping With #HomeToVoteYes
Many folks at home are doing their best to help expats make the often expensive and lengthy trip back to Ireland by offering transit options, financial help, and other assistance.
Expats are making it happen.
If Ireland does vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment, the government is expected to pass a law allowing abortion until a woman is 12 weeks pregnant, or until she's 23 weeks pregnant if her life or the fetus' life is threatened. Currently women can receive 14-year prison sentences for getting abortions, according to The Guardian.
The vote is expected to be close. A Sunday Business Post/Red C poll published on Sunday showed 56 percent of voters intending to cast ballots in favor of repeal. But the significant number of undecided voters — 14 percent, according to that poll — could sway the outcome in the other direction.
The work of the #HomeToVoteYes campaign alone could be enough to secure a "yes" victory. Expats often tend to be younger and more liberal than the average voter; a recent poll from the Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI showed that 67 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds and 70 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds are in favor of repealing the abortion ban.