This is my sixth week working in the Ireland parliament and not a day goes by where we don’t talk about abortion. Abortion in Ireland has been a hot topic for years. The Eighth Amendment to the constitution of Ireland allows for the the rights of an unborn child and acts as a constitutional ban on abortion. Consequently, abortions in Ireland are illegal (except in a case where an abortion would save a woman’s life) and Irish women who need abortions must travel to the UK to receive the proper care and procedure they require.
With the election of a new prime minister, a referendum is most likely going to be held next spring on abortion, where people will get the chance to repeal the Eighth amendment or reaffirm it.
Ireland went through a period of huge political and economic liberalization a couple decades ago, before which it was considered extremely conservative. Now, Ireland is one of the most politically liberal countries in the entire world. It was even the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage by popular vote. However, its abortion law is particularly antiquated compared to other developed countries.
There are a lot of protests going on by post pro-life and pro-choice groups all around the city. I have had to walk through some of them on my way to work. I’ve had to attend lectures on abortions and written reports and researched the topic because everyone is trying to be on top of this issue. Politicians have made it their goal to have at least an opinion on the topic in order for them to stay politically relevant. It’s going to be a particularly divisive referendum as the Irish population is generally split on this issue, with most young people supporting the repeal of the Eighth and most people over 40 rejecting the repeal. I am particularly interested to see what happens, and I’m also excited for it to be over so we can talk about something else other than abortion, because although its an important issue, it has become a source of political power and influence around the world, specifically in Ireland.