Women In Ireland & Beyond Are Cheering Their Country's Vote To Repeal The Abortion Ban

by Caitlin Cruz
Charles McQuillan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

After an overwhelming affirmation vote in Ireland to repeal the abortion ban, #RepealedThe8th was trending on Twitter to celebrate the historic referendum result. One exit poll estimated the "yes" votes at 68 percent to the "no"'s 32 percent, according to The Irish Times.

The Eighth Amendment was passed in 1983 with support of 67 percent of the vote. The amendment recognizes "the right to life of the unborn” and says that the unborn is of "equal right to life of the mother." A referendum was called for earlier this year by the Irish cabinet after a citizen's assembly recommended "unrestricted access to abortion during early pregnancy," as reported by The Guardian.

Pro-choice activists had found support in Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, as well as a host of other top politicians in Ireland. “It’s looking like we will make history. Democracy in action," Varadkar wrote on Twitter after the first exit poll was published.

As the tally trickled in, people in Ireland celebrated the expected result with #RepealedThe8th tweets showed joy, surprise, and excitement of the Irish and women around the world who saw the future getting brighter.

"For all the women who died through back street abortions + were kept as a shameful family secret. For the rape victims who feared the worst, + now have options. For the abused, the neglected + the poor. For women, all women. What a wonderful day in history," Twitter user Cara Hunter wrote.

According to the exit polling done by The Irish Times (which started taking sampling from voters at 7 a.m. on Friday as voting was ongoing), the highest area of "yes" votes was the 77 percent of voters in Dublin. Among young people ages 18-24, 87 percent voted in favor of yes in the exit poll, and 83 percent of voters 25-34 voted in favor of the referendum. While the support of "yes" votes remained in the majority as voters aged, when polling those over age 65, only 40 percent voted yes, compared to the 60 percent against.

The polling had a margin of error of plus and minus 1.5 percent, and Saturday's tally matched the exit polls.

The vote saw a huge turnout, and it reunited mothers and daughters as well. Author Michelle McLoughney shared a selfie of her with her mother, who were separated shortly after McLoughney was born. "Ireland is looking a lot brighter this morning," she wrote later.

The results of the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment touched women from all over. Reporter Rossalyn Warren shared a message of support from El Salvador, where abortion is illegal. "I feel excited, it gives us hope, and we really hope that El Salvador will soon be recognizing this human right," one pro-choice activist from El Salvador in a message to Warren.

The mural of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian dentist whose case became a touchstone for pro-choice activists, became a spot for remembrances and candles as the night wore on. Halappanavar died from sepsis in 2012 after she was denied an abortion during a protracted miscarriage, according to The Guardian. Her story illustrated how a lack of choice for women was hurting their health outcomes.

Her father, Andanappa Yalagi said he was "very happy" with the vote's outcome. "We've got justice for Savita, and what happened to her will not happen to any other family now," he told The Guardian. “I have no words to express my gratitude to the people of Ireland at this historic moment.”

The outcome rightfully brought out strong emotions for those who voted for repeal. Pro-choice policies are under attack all over the world, not just in the United States, and people saw the work done by Irish activists and voters as a positive step forward for women's choice.

Supporters of the campaign for repeal posted selfies and pictures of their pro-choice sweaters, pins and posters in celebration.

The overwhelming vote for "yes" is a break with the country's stringent Catholic roots. In Ireland, contraception wasn't easily accessible until the '90s, and divorce was legalized in a similar referendum in 1995. However, the country showed glimmers of progressive voting patterns when Ireland became the first country to legalize gay marriage by popular vote.

As the votes were counted, activists said Northern Ireland's abortion ban cannot be forgotten. As it stands, abortion in Northern Ireland is only allowed if a women's life is at risk with no rape or incest exceptions. The campaign to overturn Northern Ireland's ban could be next.