DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland’s prime minister on Saturday hailed the culmination of “a quiet revolution” in what was once one of Europe’s most socially conservative countries after a landslide referendum vote to liberalise highly restrictive laws on abortion.
Voters in the once deeply Catholic nation backed the change by two-to-one, a far higher margin than any opinion poll in the run up to the vote had predicted, and allows the government to bring in legislation by the end of the year.
For decades, the law forced over 3,000 women to travel to Britain each year for terminations and “Yes” campaigners argued that with others now ordering pills illegally online, abortion was already a reality in Ireland.
The campaign was defined by women publicly sharing their painful experiences of leaving the country for procedures, a key reason why all but one of Ireland’s 40 constituencies voted “Yes”. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who campaigned to repeal the laws, had called the vote a once-in-a-generation chance and voters responded by turning out in droves. A turnout of 64 percent was one of the highest for a referendum.