Support for Ireland’s abortion ban appears to have melted away

No campaign counted on rural votes but early exit poll suggest they didnt swaying their way

Ruth Shaw was one of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Irish voters who flew home or bided home, cancelled vacations or came back early, so they could cast a vote to end Ireland’s decades-old prohibition on abortion.

They supposed their votes might be needed to tip the balance. In the end, though, they joined what seems to be an unforeseen landslide of support for change.

The first exit poll, from the Irish Times/ Ipsos MRBI, showed that Dublin, as expected, had voted overwhelmingly for yes. But so too did rural areas, which the no vote had counted on to kind a bulwark of conservative is supportive of Ireland’s restrictive status quo.

” It’s great for this country, we need to step into the next century ,” said teacher Caroline Ryan, one of the first to referendum but confident even at 7am that the repeal would pass.” Every other country in Europe has access to abortion .”

The vote was a reminder, she said, of the church’s loosening grip on a country where a series of scandals, involving child abuse and mistreatment of pregnant, unmarried women and their children, have enormously undermined the clergy’s authority.” Women have been treated so badly in this country by the Catholic church ,” she added.

Voters had to help Ireland decide whether to keep a clause in its constitution, known as the 8th amendment.

Since 1983, it had set the” right to life of the unborn” on an equal status with the life of a pregnant girl, underpinning a near-total ban on abortion in Ireland, even in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormality. It is one of the strictest defined of rules in the western world.

For Shaw who, along with 20 family and friends had flights lined up to go to a wedding in New York when the date was defined, there was no question about what to do.

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Irish people living abroad return home to become involved in abortion referendum- video

” We changed our flights ,” she said.” It’s really important; I’ve got two daughters .” So at 6.55 am she was waiting with nine-year-old Simi outside Our Lady’s Clonskeagh Parish secondary school, second in line to cast her vote before heading to the airport.

On a day of glorious sunshine and heightened feelings, polling stations across Ireland reported high turnouts for a ballot that politicians and campaigners concurred would determine a hugely emotional issue for at least a generation.

Polls constricted in the run-up to voting, with the outcome widely expected to depend on the one in six voters who were still undecided on the eve of the poll. Many in the no camp were convinced they had a groundswell of quiet support.

” So many no voters are shy ,” said Fidelma, 45, a Dubliner who said she was wearing a no badge for the first time and was astonished to determine more than half her office of 10 people offering her support.

She had kept her positions private until the working day of the referendum because there was so much social pressure in the capital to support a repeal.” People attain us feel like we are backwards and don’t count ,” she said.

Anti-abortion
No advocates campaign from a bridge in Dublin. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/ Getty Images

At the ballot box, ultimately, there were not enough no voters to count. Two thirds of men, and an even higher propotion of women, opted for change, in agreement with the Irish Times.

Among the young in particular, the vote was overwhelmingly in favour of ending the ban. Nearly nine out of 10 voters between 18 and 24 voted yes, the Irish Times exit poll found.

Riodhna Mackin, 18, voting for the first time, was one of them.” I am a young woman in Ireland and I would like to have a tell over my own body, and for my friends to have the same ,” she said after casting her ballot.

The
The Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, poses with colleagues from his Fine Gael party in Dublin before the referendum. Photo: Niall Carson/ PA

The official vote count begins on Saturday morning, with the first indications of whether the exit poll is right expected by mid-morning.

The scale of the projected victory was so immense though that resulting no campaigners conceded defeat within minutes.

The split over abortion, which reflects deep divisions about what kind of country Ireland wants to be as it reassesses its Catholic heritage and becomes more ethnically and religiously diverse, has reached profoundly into communities and families.

Elizabeth McDonald, 58, told:” I voted no because I believe I regard it as murder. We don’t need abortion in this country .”

Her son Stephen, 33, thinks the near-ban on abortion is cruel and puts women’s health in jeopardy. It is not illegal to go abroad for an abortion, so about nine females a day travel to England trying therapy. Others order abortion pills online and take them at home, risking up to 14 years in prison.

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My budget flight to get an abortion: the story no one in Ireland wants to tell- video

” I’m her son and I voted yes ,” he said, as they left the polling station together.” Abortion do happen in Ireland and I’d rather they were in a situation where it was safer for women .”

The journeys for abortions were the reason Ian Sewell, 26, travelled back from England to vote yes.” I don’t think we are voting on whether people can have abortions; we are voting on whether poor women can have abortions, because rich people already travel to England ,” he said as he left a polling station.

Make sure to visit: CapGeneration.com

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