Ireland Repealed the Eighth. What’s Next?

Ireland recently voted to repeal the 8th amendment. To put it as simply as possible, the 8th amendment was the main thing restricting abortion access in Ireland, and now it’s gone. After the vote, there seemed to be a collective breath of fresh air. A release, a victory, a letting go of every painful emotion felt under that amendment.

So, what’s next? The Taoiseach (Prime Minister equivalent) in Ireland is in full support of making abortion legal up to 12 weeks, with special circumstances increasing access until further along in a pregnancy. This is a fairly standard first abortion law, and in future, the time limits may be relaxed. Also, every major party in Ireland was in support of repealing the 8th (so that’s Fine Gael, Fianna Fáel, and Sin Feinn) with this same standard.

Problematically, people often don’t realise that they are pregnant until they’re past 12 weeks, so it’s up to the government to decide what counts as a special circumstance if they want to grant an abortion past that limit. If I had it my way, a special circumstance would be if you were pregnant and didn’t want to be anymore. That’d be it. But alas, not everyone’s as keen.

There’s also the problem of doctors who voted against the repeal. A spokesperson of the medical community in Ireland, Dr Walsh, told the Irish Times that she believed about a fifth of GPs would be willing to provide abortion services. She also said that figure “would more than meet” demand on the basis of the number of women who currently travel to the UK for abortions. However, this figure is just including the women who can afford to travel. This doesn’t include the countless women who take all sorts of risks to have an abortion or induce a miscarriage at home. And it also speaks to the voluminous social and cultural problems that tie morality and uterine health together.

To add to the already growing pile of problems, people in the U.K. have realised that Northern Ireland hasn’t yet legalised abortion, and maybe they should do something about it. Tory Prime Minister, Theresa May, has the power to enforce a law change, but no one would come out of that looking good, especially since her government is propped up by DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) votes. The DUP are infamously set against abortion, and they’ve got May’s hands tied. So it looks like unless the DUP suddenly have a huge change of heart and see sense, abortion will remain illegal in Northern Ireland. But at least the travel is shorter to Ireland than it is to the rest of the U.K.

So, in the Republic of Ireland itself, abortion will become legal, unless there’s another election happens and they elect a smaller party that is not in favour of abortion. I’d say that’s unlikely, but if the past few years have shown us anything, it’s that anything is possible, both good and bad. But let’s focus on the good: a staunchly Catholic country voted overwhelmingly in favour of legalising abortion even when the polls weren’t expecting it. Every expectation was exceeded in voter turnout and in the number of people who flew back to Ireland from afar. Also, the problem in Northern Ireland regarding abortion has been illuminated and public pressure can do a lot to sway a decision or at least a vote. In a tumultuous world, any change towards equality is huge and drenched in meaning, so there’s a lot to be grateful for.

Written by Rochelle Asquith

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