Ireland: Abortion Ban to be Overturned

Landslide Victory for Women’s Reproductive Rights

Key Actors:

  • Irish Republic Government – Led by Leo Varadkar and in support of liberalisation


A referendum held last Friday saw strong support for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment in Irish Republic legislation. Ever since 1983, abortion in Ireland has only been permitted when the mother’s life is at risk. Cases of rape, incest, and fetal abnormalities are not grounds for an abortion under the Eighth Amendment, which grants an equal right to life to both the mother and the unborn child. This referendum follows a similarly controversial vote in 2015 on the topic of homosexual marriage, which also won with an majority of 62% for legalisation.

In Friday’s vote, 66.4% of the Irish population voted to eliminate the Eighth Amendment, paving the way for Varadkar’s supportive government to do so. The only opposition was from Donegal, a northern Irish constituency, with 51.9% of its citizens voting against the repeal.

Amnesty International has recognized the event as a “momentous win for women’s rights” and that it signifies the beginning of a new era of liberalism and equal rights for Ireland.

On the other hand, the opposition sees this as a sorrowful occurrence. Spokesman John McGuirk from the “Save the 8th” campaign, which lobbies to preserve the Eighth Amendment, has stated that “the unborn child no longer has a right to life recognised by the Irish state.”

Nevertheless, the results of the referendum have been disclosed, and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has stated that the new amendment can be expected to pass within the year.

What now?

Emboldened by their landslide victory, voters are now looking to legalise abortions in Northern Ireland, which has some of the strictest abortion laws in the world. Many women looking for a safe and legal abortion have to leave the country to do so.

The results of this referendum will undoubtedly put pressure on the Northern Irish government to revise their own abortion bans, which stand out in harsh contrast to the liberal stance that their southern neighbours have taken.

The referendum marks a historic event, as Ireland has for a long time now been regarded as the host to one of the most restrictive bans on abortion internationally. In time, other countries may reconsider their stances on abortions, sparking change on an international scale.


  • 66.4% of voters supportive of removal of abortion laws.


Irish abortion referendum: Ireland overturns abortion ban – BBC. 26 May 2018. 31 May 2018

Davey, Melissa. ‘North is next’: fresh fight for grassroots power that beat Ireland abortion ban –  The Guardian. 1 June 2018. 1 June 2018.

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