This week, thousands of people are flying hundreds of thousands of miles home to Ireland to vote to legalize abortion. In Ireland, it’s nearly impossible to get an abortion. People who want abortions must travel out of the country to get the procedure. Some take a more dangerous route and take abortion pills without medical attention. The prison sentence for taking abortion pills in Ireland is 14 years. But now is potentially the time for reproductive rights to change in Ireland. On Friday, the country will vote whether to appeal the Eighth Amendment to Ireland’s constitution. If the amendment is repealed, reproductive rights and health in the country could be forever changed.
The Eighth Amendment gives a fetus the same right to “life” as the person carrying it.
Abortion is illegal including in cases of incest or rape. The only exception is if the mother’s life is at risk. However, this can be hard to prove. The repercussions of these laws were brought to national attention after the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012. She was denied an abortion at the hospital after she started miscarrying at 17 weeks, and she died as a result. Savita’s death was a wake up call for many. This referendum might be their only chance to change the laws for a long time. Irish actress Lauryn Canny said in an interview with Bustle that her family and friends pitched in for her plane ticket from LA to Ireland. She also said if the amendment isn’t repealed, it’s unlikely she’ll ever move home again.
I'm coming #HomeToVote ! Will be traveling 5,169 miles from LA to Dublin and will be thinking of every Irish woman who has had to travel to access healthcare that should be available in their own country. Let's do this, Ireland! #repealthe8th #VoteYes pic.twitter.com/fZDxUIGrs9
— Lauryn Canny (@LaurynCanny) May 23, 2018
Voters hope that by appealing the referendum, they can ease the stigma about reproductive rights in Ireland.
There is still a lot of stigma around speaking openly about reproductive rights and health. But staying silent can cause more harm than good when it comes to saving lives. Studies show that restrictive reproductive laws don’t stop abortions from happening. According to The Guttmacher Institute, strict abortion laws don’t lead to lower rates of abortion, they instead make the procedure secretive and unsafe.
Ireland’s strict abortion laws force around ten people to travel from Ireland to the U.K. each day to receive an abortion.
The #HomeToVote campaign, which is part of the London-Irish Abortion Campaign, started when people started posting their flight itineraries back to Ireland. The hashtag #HomeToVote is trending on Twitter to show just how many people are coming back to Ireland to make their voices heard. #HomeToVote was inspired by the 2015 gay marriage referendum, where in a similar movement people traveled back to Ireland to vote to legalize gay marriage. Supporters of repealing the Eighth Amendment are hoping for a similar victory. The people traveling thousands of miles across international borders to vote represent the trek they hope people will never have to make for safe abortion again.
Just collected eldest son from Dublin Airport. In 2015 Ireland gave him his right – the right to get married.
On Friday he’ll return the favour and vote to give women the right to make decisions about their own bodies. #Together4Yes #hometovote #soproud
— Noeleen McHugh (@MchughNoeleen) May 23, 2018
— keanu niamh (@HoorayForNiamh) May 22, 2018
Just starting my journey #hometovote from Sweden. All I can think of is the 10-12 women who are nervously awaiting their bus/train/flight to get to their appointment. For women in a crisis, today is a day like no other. Time for care and compassion in Ireland. Time for change.
— Ailbhe Coleman (@coleman_ailbhe) May 23, 2018
Featured Image is from a Repeal the 8th Protest in Brussels via Flickr
Also published on Medium.