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Part 3 of three parts.

Ireland: 2018-MAY referendum
on abortion:
"Yes" voters win by almost 2:1.
Abortion law effective on 2019-JAN-01.
Attention switches to Northern Ireland.

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This topic continues here from the previous essay

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Saturday, 2018-MAY-27: Final Ireland referendum results were announced:

The exit polls were found to to have predicted the results accurately. The final result was announced at Dublin Castle at 18:13 hrs local time, which was 1:13 PM Eastern Time in North America. The abortion ban was overturned by a vote of 66.4% to 33.6% -- a ratio of almost exactly 2 to 1. Turnout was 64.1%.

The only constituency where a majority of voters tried to preserve the ban was Donegal at the extreme North West of Ireland, where a small majority -- 51.9% -- voted "NO."

The Dáil (Irish Parliament) is now free to pass a law to liberalize abortion in the country.

Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar said that it was:

"... a historical day for Ireland. ... [A} quite revolution [had taken place]. ... [The Irish public] "trust and respect women to make their own decision and choices. ... It's also a day when we say 'no more.' No more to doctors telling their patients there's nothing can be done for them in their own country, no more lonely journeys across the Irish Sea, no more stigma as the veil of secrecy is lifted, and no more isolation as the burden of shame is gone." 1

He told those who had voted "NO:"

"I know today is not welcome and you may feel this country has taken the wrong turn, that this country is one you no longer recognize. I want to reassure you that Ireland today is the same as it was last week, but more tolerant, open and respectful. ..."

"We voted to look reality in the eye and we did not blink. We choose to provide companionship where there was once a cold shoulder and medical care where we once turned a blind eye."

Amnesty International described the result as a:

"... momentous win for women's rights... [that] marks the beginning of a new Ireland." 2

Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, writing for the New York Times, said:

"Some were joyous. Others were devastated. But most of all, ... many were simply astonished."

"... they were witnessing, they knew, the culmination of a fundamental shift in Irish society --- one that has come about with stunning speed. ... the country has gone from being a bastion of social conservatism in the West to a place that wholeheartedly embraces positions that would have been unthinkable just a generation ago.

The culture of silence and deference to religious authority that long dominated Ireland is gone. The country that has emerged is an unlikely leader of liberal values." 3

Over the past three decades, Ireland has transitioned from being an economically poor, deeply Roman Catholic country, to a place that is experiencing high growth rates, and has a Prime Minister who is gay and half-Indian. Its people have recently approved two referendum one to attain marriage equality and a second to authorize the removal of severe abortion restrictions from its constitution. It is now accepting many refugees rather than exporting much of its population.

Alan Barrett, director of the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin, said the results of the abortion referendum indicated a:

"... convergence with European norms. If you take the standard mainstream views in continental Europe, Ireland was the outlier, and it was always economically behind Europe. With the Catholic Church being moved aside, you’ve got the Irish accumulating their values and views the same way that the French, the Germans or the British get theirs." 2

"SPUC", the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, a Northern Ireland Pro Life group, tweeted:

""Ireland has become a different place, not a more tolerant, open and respectful place, but a place with a heart closed to the ones who will die because they are not deemed human enough to be protected."

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Webmaster's comment about the unborn not being "human enough:" (bias alert):

Concerning human life and human personhood: An ovum cannot divide and form two ova. Also, a spermatozoon cannot divide to form two spermatozoa. For that reason, scientists do not consider them forms of life. However, after conception, when an ovum and one very lucky spermatozoon join to produce a zygote, the latter sometimes divides and produces two zygotes. That is how identical twins are formed. Scientists and many others believe that conception is the point where all five requirements of life exist, and thus life begins. Since a zygote contains human DNA, it is a form of human life.

Meanwhile, most people agree that a newborn is not only a human life but is also a human person. Where they don't agree is the time during pregnancy when a human life becomes a human person. Common beliefs vary from the time of conception, to childbirth, to the baby taking its first breath.

The death of a person is medically defined as the time that the person's higher brain functions fail; they cannot be restarted; and the person becomes non-sentient. She or he is dead, and is no longer aware of their surroundings. It seems reasonable to me that the start of a human person logically occurs when the higher brain functions first start up, and the human life becomes sentient. This happens at about 24 weeks gestation, near the end of the second trimester during a pregnancy.

The proposed new law for Ireland would allow women to freely decide to have an abortion up to 12 weeks gestation. This is about the end of the first trimester which is long before sentience and the attainment of personhood, (using the above definition).

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Late 2018-MAY: Conflicting views on the future of the pro-life movement in Ireland:

  • A video by Laura Larkin copied from The Independent features an unidentified woman discussing "a new generation of Irish people who are prepared to stand up for the right to life" of human embryos and fetuses:


  • In contrast, Sir Elton John said that Ireland's vote to liberalize its abortion laws showed how radically mind sets can change. He said:

    "It takes a long time for things to happen. ... Look what just happened in Ireland: the vote for [access to] abortion. Things change. People ... they change their mind. And with a younger generation coming up, they are different kind of people, and they're our future." 5

  • Finally, Thomas Reese, writing for the Religious News Service, said:

    "In almost every country where [access to] abortion has been on the ballot, abortion has won. Rarely have pro-choice laws been reversed. This trend is not going to change. To think otherwise is simply ignoring reality." 6

He suggested that the pro-life movement develop a new strategy. Polls show that younger people are more pro-choice. Thus the U.S. and other countries will move in this direction in the future.

He suggests that the movement stop trying to restrict abortion access and concentrate on lowering the number of abortions, by:

"increasing the minimum wage, [and supplying] free or affordable day care for working and student moms, free or affordable health care for mothers and their children, parental leave programs, education and job-training programs, income and food supplements, etc."

He also includes what might be the most effective way to reduce the need for abortions: provide free or very low cost contraceptive supplies, including emergency conception.

He disapproves of current attempts to put Planned Parenthood out of business. He favors this as a long-term goal, but said:

"... closing clinics that provide health care and birth control to women before replacements are up and running is irresponsible and counterproductive. ... The number of abortions in the United States peaked in 1990 at 1,429,247. Working together, we could reasonably get abortions down to under 100,000 per year. [This is] far too many, but an achievable goal and better than where we are today." 6

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2018-MAY-28: Roman Catholic Bishop comments on people who voted "YES:"

Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin was interviewed on the 'Today with Sean O'Rourke" TV program on RTÉ. He said:

"What I'd say to a Catholic who voted Yes is this: if you voted Yes knowing and intending that abortion would be the outcome then you should consider coming to confession. ... Ultimately all sin -- and sin is not just related to this area but all sin -- is about decisions that impact on our relationship with God."4

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Late 2018-MAY: Attention now switches from Ireland to Northern Ireland:

When a new abortion bill is passed in Ireland concerning abortion -- probably by the end of 2018 -- Northern Ireland, which shares the Northern part of the same island with Ireland, will probably remain the only place in the region where abortions will remain extremely restricted beyond the end of 2018. Abortion clinics are expected to be established on the Irish side of the Ireland/Northern Ireland border so that women from the North will be able to have easier access.

Stella Creasy, writing for The Guardian, said:

"Abortion is only legal in that part of the UK if the mother’s life is at immediate risk. As the law stands, a victim of rape who sought to end an unwanted pregnancy would risk a longer prison sentence than her attacker. Women whose babies will not live outside the womb are forced to carry them to term." 8

During the previous year, women in Northern Ireland were legally allowed to go to England to obtain an abortion, but they cannot obtain one at home -- yet.

Developments in Northern Ireland.

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2018-JUL-12: Megan Markle indicates supports for results of the Referendum:

The Daily Beast reported that Megan Markle, the newest member of the British royal family, discussed the referendum result at a party in the British ambassador's residence in Dublin. Senator Catherine Noone of Ireland’s ruling Fine Gael party tweeted:

"The Duchess [of Sussex] and I had a chat about the recent referendum result -- she watched with interest and was pleased to see the result."


"I should say she seemed pleased—she was interested and very measured, not political at all."

Both tweets were subsequently deleted. By commenting in this way she appears to have violate the royal family's tradition of maintaining public neutrality on political matters. 7

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2018-DEC-17: Abortion access in Ireland will start at the beginning of 2019:

On DEC-05, about six months after the referendum, the Dáil -- the Irish lower government body -- passed the Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill by an overwhelming vote of 90 to 15, with 12 abstentions. 9

The bill guaranteed access for Irish women to an abortion medication for pregnancies having lasted under nine weeks. Surgical abortions will be available for any reason, up to 12 weeks. It also allows access to abortion beyond 12 weeks under certain restrictions. 12 Doctors can personally opt out of performing abortions if they have conscientious objections. All 19 maternity units in Ireland are preparing plans to have abortion access available by 2019-JAN-01. An abortion crisis/distress/information helpline will also be in service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on that day. 10 Its number will be: 1 800 828 010 13

The Seanad -- the Irish upper body -- passed the second stage of the abortion bill by vote of 27 to 3.

  • Senator Ronan Mullen said:

    "I firmly believe the referendum and this legislation are decisions which will be rued by future generations. It is truly frightening. This legislation does what it says on the tin. It ends lives of unborn children, it is a situation beyond tears. ... It is a strange world where healthcare involves the deliberate ending of life. It is another example of the banality of evil." 10

Webmaster's comment:

    Religious conservatives often describe zygotes, pre-embryos, embryos, and fetuses as "children."

  • Health Minister Simon Harris said:

    "... we need to make sure that we pass this legislation in as swift a manner as possible so that we can move forward to a future where any woman facing a crisis pregnancy can be assured that she will be treated with compassion, in a non-judgmental way and will be able to access all of the care that she and perhaps her family need in this country, supported by those who love them." 10

Sarah Jaffe, writing for Rewire News, said:

"Abortion in Ireland will be free, safe, and legal up to 12 weeks into pregnancy starting January 1. [This is] a major blow to the Catholic Church and opponents of the country’s abortion rights law, who tried to drag out the legislative process with support from U.S. anti-choice advisers. 11

Assembly Delegate Bríd Smith, of the People Before Profit socialist political party, remarked that the repeal of the Eighth Amendment that had banned abortion in Ireland was:

"... one of those rare moments in life when you feel such joy, the sheer joy of beating back the Catholic Church’s agenda, really beating it back for once. And pride, because we put a huge amount of effort into it and had witnessed a new generation of young Irish people completely different to what we had known." 11

On DEC-20, the last day of autumn, Irish President Michael D Higgins signed the Bill into law.

Sorcha Tunney, Campaign Coordinator of It’s Time campaign for Amnesty International Ireland said:

"We welcome Ireland’s new abortion law as both a historical milestone for this country and an inspiration for millions of people globally.

"Ireland’s abortion law was one of the most restrictive in the world, and today that is finally ending.

Today is also a day to reflect on where we have come from. For over 35 years, women and girls have been denied access to safe and legal abortion beyond when their life was at risk. Hundreds of thousands of women and girls were forced to travel, forced into secrecy and shame. They were gravely denied their human rights." 12

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Breda O’Brien, "Anti-abortion movement has not given up and will not disappear," The Irish Times, 2018-MAY-28, at:
  2. "Irish abortion referendum: Ireland overturns abortion ban," BBC News, 2018-MAY-26, at:
  3. Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, "Where Did Ireland Go? Abortion Vote Stuns Those on Both Sides," New York Times, 2018-MAY-27, at:
  4. Luke Byrne, "Bishop says Catholics who voted Yes to repeal should 'go to confession'," The Independent, 2018-MAY-29, at:
  5. Matthias Williams, "Elton John on Ireland's abortion referendum..." The Independent, 2018-MAY-29, at:
  6. Thomas Reese, "Irish vote shows need for new pro-life strategy," Religion News Service, 2018-MAY-27, at:
  7. Calvin Freiburger, "Meghan Markle ?pleased’ with Ireland legalizing abortion, tweets reveal," Life Site News, 2018-JUL-12, at:
  8. Stella Creasy, "The only Northern Irish woman with a choice about abortion? Arlene Foster," The Guardian, 2018-MAY-29, at:
  9. Aidan Lonergan, "Dáil passes historic bill to legalise abortion services in Ireland," Irish Post, 2018-DEC-06, at:
  10. Daniel McConnell, "Seanad passes second stage of Government's abortion legislation 27 votes to 3," Irish Examiner, 2018-DEC-06, at:
  11. Sarah Jaffe, " 'Sheer Joy': Ireland Will Have Free Abortion Care on January 1," Rewire News, 2018-DEC-17, at:
  12. "Abortion [will] now [be] legal in Ireland as President signs Bill into law," Irish Examiner, 2018-DEC-20, at:
  13. " 'My Options' freephone line," HSE, at:

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Home > "Hot" religious topics and conflicts > Abortion > Worldwide > here

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Original posting: 2018-MAY-31
Latest update: 2019-JUL-19
Author: B.A. Robinson

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