Every day 12 Irish women have an abortion, either by travelling to the UK or taking abortion pills, according to SIARC
The Scottish Irish Abortion Rights Campaign (SIARC) has joined the #HometoVote movement, encouraging all eligible Irish people to go home to vote on 25 May in the upcoming referendum.
The referendum concerns the eighth amendment to the Irish constitution, which gives embryos equal rights to women. Introduced in 1983, it has meant that Ireland continues to have some of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the world.
It is currently illegal to have an abortion in Ireland in almost all circumstances, the only exception is where it is medically necessary to save the woman’s life. The ban has forced thousands of Irish women over the years to travel abroad for treatment, or risk prosecution by taking abortion pills at home. Under the current law, they could face up to 14 years in prison for illegally choosing to abort.
According to SIARC, every day 12 Irish women have an abortion, either by travelling to the UK or taking abortion pills.
If the people of Ireland vote to amend the constitution, the government has said it will introduce legislation allowing for abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. In the UK, excluding Northern Ireland, abortions can be performed during the first 24 weeks.
Similarly to the Republic, Northern Ireland retains some of the harshest anti-abortion laws in the world. In theory, a woman can face up to life imprisonment for undertaking an illegal abortion. The United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) recently condemned this situation in a report, stating: “The UK violates the rights of women in Northern Ireland by unduly restricting their access to abortion.”
Following the release of the report in February, Cedaw Vice-Chair Ruth Halperin-Kaddari described the situation in Northern Ireland as tantamount to “violence against women that may amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”
The referendum in the Republic of Ireland is expected to be close, and campaigners are seeking to get as many eligible voters involved as possible. All Irish people who have been living outside of Ireland for less than 18 months, with further exceptions for students, are eligible to return to Ireland to vote in this referendum, and the #HometoVote campaign is seeking to raise awareness of this right.
A SIARC spokesperson said: “We are on the brink of a turning point – the result of this referendum will speak volumes on how Ireland values its women and pregnant people.
“We expect this to be a close, hard-fought campaign. We encourage all those eligible to vote to return home to Ireland on 25 May and remove the eighth amendment from the Irish Constitution.
“Abortion is illegal in almost every circumstance on the Island of Ireland and a ‘yes’ vote will ensure that Ireland can begin to provide the compassionate healthcare its citizens have needed for so long.”