Today is a history-making day for Ireland. Polls opened at 7 a.m. for voters to decide whether to repeal the eighth amendment, the 1983 constitutional clause that, by equating a pregnant person’s right to life with that of their foetus, effectively outlaws abortion. Irish people are voting en masse to secure true reproductive rights and bodily autonomy for their generation and the next, and the Irish Abortion Referendum tweets are every bit as emotional as you'd imagine.
The campaign to legalise abortion in Ireland has accelerated gradually since 1992, when a pregnant 14-year-old girl, known as "Case X", was legally barred from travelling to England to obtain an abortion. As was widely reported, the teenager became pregnant as a result of rape, and had expressed suicidal feelings; after mass protests, the Irish Supreme Court overturned the ruling preventing her from travelling.
As the Guardian reports, about 170,000 people have subsequently travelled out of Ireland in order to obtain the medical procedure their own country denied them. In more recent years, campaigners were galvanised by the 2012 death of dentist Savita Halappanavar, who was denied an abortion in Galway despite entering septic shock during a miscarriage. According to her husband, Praveen Halappanavar, the couple asked for the pregnancy to be terminated when they were informed of the impending miscarriage and subsequent risk of infection. He told reporters shortly after her death that the response was, "This is a Catholic country."
As Ireland takes to the polls, people are sharing their feelings on Twitter. Many are voting in Halappanavar’s memory, and urging others to do the same. Meanwhile, some are voting with their families, hoping to secure their children the rights of their own bodies that have been denied to them. For most, it's an acutely emotional day, one they’re hoping will profoundly change their country.
Expats from across the globe have been returning #HomeToVote, in case you missed it, and it's difficult to watch the coverage without feeling a little emotionally overcome. Here’s a selection of the most poignant, impassioned, and uplifting tweets from the women with history in their hands.
Some are casting their votes in Savita Halappanavar's name, in the hope of preventing another cruelly avoidable death. "I hope the people of Ireland remember my daughter Savita on the day of the referendum," her father, Andanappa Yalagi, recently told the Guardian. It's evident from Twitter that many are doing just that.
Activist Ailbhe Smyth, leader of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, has waited a long time to cast her vote. When she campaigned against the amendment's original ratification in 1983, she was denounced as a "baby murderer", as she told the Guardian.
Others shared traumatic personal and family stories of the struggle to terminate unwanted pregnancies in the face of the eighth amendment, including food writer Jack Monroe.
For many, the voting experience has been keenly emotional.
Several shared their experience of voting with their families, bringing older and younger generations to the polls.
Multiple voters were accompanied by their pups.
Public figures have thrown their weight behind the people of Ireland voting for change, including RuPaul's Drag Race star Peppermint, Emma Watson, and poet Bridget Minamore.
And a word from Irish politician Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as he casts his vote.
The polls will close at 10 p.m. tonight, and the results are expected to be declared by early evening on Saturday, according to the BBC. Until then, I'll leave you with a final word from Andanappa Yalagi: "It’s still very emotional after five years. I think about [Savita] every day. She didn’t get the medical treatment she needed because of the eighth amendment. They must change the law."