Ireland says big ‘Yes’ to repeal abortion laws

Ireland gave a big “Yes” vote to loosen the country’s restrictive abortion laws on Saturday.

Until now, abortion was banned in the country except in cases where the mother’s life was in danger. Saturday’s vote repealed the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution that gave the mother and unborn child an “equal right to life,” and banned abortion even in cases of rape or incest.

Thousands who gathered  in front of Dublin Castle cheered as returning officer Barry Ryan announced the final results from the 40 constituencies. Some 66.4% voted for change and 33.6% opposed it. About 64% of the 3.1 million eligible voters took part in the landmark referendum.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar called it “a historic day” as people voted to provide compassion and medical care instead of turning a blind eye to cases where abortion is needed.

Health Minister Simon Harris said earlier women in crisis pregnancy were told to take the plane or boat to Britain. Now the government says “take our hand”, Harris said.

Saturday’s vote gives the government the mandate to bring forward the legislation to ban abortion before the end of this year, Varadkar said.

Anti-abortion groups called it a ” sad day for Ireland” adding that the repeal of the eighth amendment was “a tragedy of historic proportions.”

The group Save the 8th Campaign said it would oppose any move that would allow babies to be killed in the Catholic nation.