• Press Release

Ireland: Abortion referendum is historic opportunity to vote for equality, compassion and dignity

May 22, 2018

March for choice in Dublin, Ireland, 26 September, 2015. Over 150 people gather on the millenium bridge to #light the way to the global goals.
Women and girls in Ireland finally have a once in a generation opportunity to have their right to decide what happens to their bodies recognized, said Amnesty International ahead of Friday’s referendum on abortion.

The long fought-for referendum will give Irish people a chance to vote on removing a constitutional provision which bans abortion in all circumstances other than where there is a risk to the life of the pregnant woman. The provision, known as the Eighth Amendment, has meant that Ireland’s abortion law is amongst the most restrictive in the world.

“On Friday, we have a historic opportunity to change Ireland’s Constitution and remove restrictions that have caused untold suffering to countless women and girls. This opportunity must not be missed,” said Colm O Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.

“A ‘yes’ vote is a vote for equality, for dignity, for respect and compassion. It is a vote for a future Ireland where the human rights of women and girls are respected and protected. It is a vote for hope and for an end to the exile of women in need of safe health care.”

The Eighth Amendment has violated women’s and girls’ human rights – including the rights to health, life, privacy, equality and non-discrimination, and the right to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

Every day, an average of 10 women and girls leave Ireland to access abortions abroad. An estimated three more take imported abortion pills without medical support. By using abortion pills in Ireland, they face possible criminal sanction, including a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

“Getting this referendum has been a long and difficult struggle. It has taken 35 years, 10 governments and a massive public campaign to get us here, and in that time Ireland’s draconian abortion laws have caused immense misery and even cost lives,” said Colm O’ Gorman.

“This is not a vote on whether abortions will happen in Ireland – the past three decades have shown that the Eighth Amendment has not stopped the need for abortion services. This is a vote on whether women who do have abortions are granted access to safe services, and treated with compassion and dignity.”