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Voters in Ireland came out in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment at the referendum on May 25th, which should lead to some significant changes in healthcare. Women will no longer have to travel overseas to arrange a private abortion as they will be able to access the care that they need in Ireland once new regulations are in place.
The question asked during the Irish referendum was whether the Eighth Amendment to the constitution should be repealed in order to allow changes to be made to abortion regulations. The amendment stated that the life of the mother and unborn baby must be treated equally, which meant that terminations could only be provided to save the mother’s life. Terminations were not even allowed in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities or rape, so women often had to travel to the UK to get private abortion. The amendment also meant that doctors were sometime reluctant to provide abortions even when there were severe risks to the mother’s health or life, which caused a lot of unnecessary pain and in some cases led to fatalities. The campaign in favour of repeal was able to raise awareness of these serious consequences of the amendment. The result was that 66.4% of voters agreed that the amendment should go so that abortion reform could take place.
The results of the referendum showed that attitudes in Ireland have changed dramatically since the amendment was added to the constitution after a similar vote in 1983. However, the referendum alone won’t change abortion laws in Ireland so some women will still have to arrange a private abortion elsewhere until the new legislation is in place. Once this happens, women are expected to be able to access abortion on demand up to 12 weeks with later terminations allowed when there is a medical need.