Ireland votes in a historic referendum on abortion on Friday (May 25). While abortion has been illegal in Ireland since 1861, it was enshrined into the constitution in 1983 in the form of the 8th amendment. This treats an unborn fetus with a right to life that is equal to a mother’s, effectively eliminating all abortions—even in cases of rape and incest.
Since then, tens of thousands of Irish women have traveled to various parts of the UK, such as London and Liverpool, as well as Europe to obtain abortions. It is estimated that 10 Irish women travel to the UK every single day to terminate a pregnancy. In a moving piece for British Vogue, Irish journalist Lynn Enright imagined what might have happened had her unwanted pregnancy occurred while she was living back home in Ireland, instead of London.
Perhaps I would have been one of them, making the same surreptitious arrangements – booking days off work, telling the necessary fibs to employers and family, boarding a cheap Ryanair flight at 6am as if going on holiday. I would find the hundreds of pounds necessary to pay a private clinic in Liverpool or London. Later, my abortion fund not stretching to a hotel room, I would bleed and sweat in a cheap hostel, many miles from home.
But this week, in preparation for the vote, a different direction of travel is taking place. Using the hashtag #hometovote, Irish women living all over the world are documenting their journey home to vote “Yes” in the historic referendum.
If Ireland votes to repeal the 8th amendment, abortion won’t be legal automatically, but legislators will be able to pass laws allowing it, which would bring Ireland’s laws in line with much of Europe.