Last Friday two-third of the Irish population (66,4% YES) decided to scrap the constitutional ban on abortion. Abortion was indeed prohibited in Ireland unless the pregnancy constituted a danger for the health of the mother. Hence, for decades, over 3000 Irish women were forced to travel to Britain for terminations. Ireland was condemned in 2010 by the European Court of Human Rights after it obliged a woman, who had cancer and whose health was at risk, to abort abroad. Irish lawmakers decided to take actions after the shocking death of Savita Halappanaar in 2012. This 31-year-old woman died from a septic miscarriage after being refused an abortion.
The result of the referendum was commented throughout the world from Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister, who tweeted “What a moment for democracy and women’s rights”, to Amnesty International which qualified it as a “victory for equality, for dignity, for respect and compassion”.
If Leo Varadkar, Irish Prime Minister, has pledged to introduce the legislation to legalize abortion by the end of the year, he could not be the only one to do so. Indeed, Northern Ireland remains the only British Isle with a restrictive abortion regime. Since the result of the referendum, voices are raised. Even at the head of the state, some calls were heard within Theresa May’s cabinet among which Penny Mordaunt. Britain’s minister for women and equalities admitted the vote gave hope to women in Northern Ireland, opening the door to a possible change of the legislation. Nevertheless, if we thought this referendum put pressure on UK government, May’s spokesman already said any legislative change should only be undertaken by Northern Ireland government. Yet, until now Northern Ireland has blocked all actions from London to change its abortion law. This happens while opinion polls consistently show a majority of Northern Irish who wants abortion to be available.
In Northern Ireland it is still technically possible to face a life sentence for getting an abortion. Rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities are not reasons for legal procedures. Northern Ireland remains with Andorra, Lichtenstein, Malta, San Marino and Poland the only states in Europe where abortion is prohibited by law.
For further information:
Le Monde website:
NY Times website: