This past January I became a DC Abortion Fund case manager. I did this because I feel passionately about the right to choose, and being able to exercise this choice in your own community. These values overlap with my day job at Catholics for Choice where we advocate for a person’s moral and legal right to abortion access globally.
On May 25, Ireland took a historic step and overwhelmingly voted to repeal the 8th Amendment, which equated the life of a pregnant person with that of an embryo or fetus and criminalized abortion except if continuing a pregnancy would result in certain death.
While in college, I spent a summer living and working in Dublin, Ireland. From my first weekend in the Longford countryside, I was struck by just how welcoming and kind the Irish people were. Nearly everyone I met was eager to discuss political and justice issues. Given that this was the summer of 2016, there was certainly no shortage of topics.
I met and worked with Irish women who were strong, passionate, and deeply concerned about equality. Some shared my interest in reproductive rights; frequently leading us to discussions on the dark history of the 8th Amendment, and the emotional and financial burdens that traveling abroad for abortion care imposes. Many of these stories — from the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar to the X case — were new, and deeply alarming, to me. The ban on abortion seemed so out of step with the compassionate Ireland I was welcomed into.
Historically, the Catholic hierarchy has exerted a strong hand in Ireland, as demonstrated by their role in the introduction of the 8th Amendment in 1983. Since then, Irish Catholics have questioned both the Catholic hierarchy’s views and its role in a secular state. These Catholics have evolved in their positions on abortion.
On May 25, 66 percent of Irish people voted to repeal the 8th Amendment. Voters overwhelmingly said that they trust women with their lives, their bodies, and their futures. In a predominantly Catholic country, this vote reaffirmed what has always been true — Catholics can be, and are, prochoice.
Together for Yes, and activists across Ireland, ran a campaign built on compassion. They succeeded in lifting the stigma and silence surrounding abortion. Catholics discussed their faith and their values, and ultimately came together to support people seeking an abortion. Both men (65.9 percent) and women (72.1 percent) voted for abortion access at home in Ireland. People of all ages voted yes, with an astounding 87.6 percent of voters aged 18-24 standing up for the right to choose. Even rural constituencies, like Longford, voted for Repeal in impressive margins.
Ahead of the referendum, you could see thousands of Irish citizens traveling to vote Yes on #HometoVote. And while they were coming home, on average nine people a day were leaving Ireland for an abortion in the UK. Thankfully, this will soon be over.
The Irish referendum filled me with hope that this momentous example will inspire further progress in favor of abortion access both at home and abroad. We will certainly continue fighting to make this a reality.
By volunteer Casey B.