Abortion and the referendum in Ireland

25 May 2018 brought a landslide victory for the Yes campaign to repeal the eighth amendment in the Irish constitution, which effectively gave equal rights to the pregnant woman and the fetus. Before the repeal victory, abortion was only permitted if the woman’s life was at risk but not in cases of rape, incest or foetal abnormality. Such strict laws had dire, and in some instances, fatal consequences for women seeking abortion services. Many women were forced to turn to unsafe abortion methods or to seek safe abortion services in the UK.

Following years of campaigning and perseverance, a seismic change in public opinion on abortion had taken place. With the 8th amendment now repealed, Ireland’s Government has committed to delivering legislation which legalizes abortion care on a woman’s own indication in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy.

As of January this year, the Irish Family Planning Association provides early medical abortion up to 9 weeks of pregnancy. Abortion care is free for women living in the Republic of Ireland. For more details please visit www.ifpa.ie.

Meet some of the people who tirelessly campaigned to repeal the eighth amendment, what it means to them and the future of women and girls in Ireland.

Want to know more about how medical and surgical abortion works? You can watch our explainer videos here.

Do you believe every woman and girl around the world has the human right to decide what happens to their body? Then add your voice to our 'I Decide' campaign.

Niall Behan

Chief Executive, IFPA

One fear we had was that men might see this as a women’s issue and not bother to vote, so we worked hard to engage male voters.

Ivana Bacik

Labour Party Senator, Leinster House, Dublin

My personal reproductive rights journey began when I was President of the Student Union at Trinity College, Dublin in 1989 and I was threatened with prison.

Siobhán Silke

Communications Officer, IFPA

On the day of the vote, there were probably at least 10 women and girls sitting in an airport getting ready to get on flights to go to the UK to seek the care in another country that they should have been able to get in Ireland.

Catherine Forde

Activist, barrister and former board member of the IFPA

The Irish Family Planning Association continued to argue this is a health issue, it's not a matter for criminal law.

Dr Cliona Murphy

Consultant obstetrician gynaecologist

During my medical training abortion really didn't enter the sphere. Like most Irish people I accepted it wasn’t part of our culture.

Dr Mark Murphy

Doctors for Choice

One of the biggest tragedies is that for three months of the campaign you’d turn on the radio and hear cases upon cases of women and couples talking about how the 8th amendment had harmed them.

Maura Leahy

Director of Counselling, IFPA

During the referendum campaign we had people coming for counselling who had abortions 20 or 25 years ago and hadn't spoken to anybody since about it.

Alison Spillane

Policy Officer, IFPA

I think there is a role for Ireland to step up as a country, a country that is traditionally quite conservative, having now in three years passed two very progressive referendums – one on abortion and one on same sex marriage.

Maeve Taylor

Director of Advocacy and Communications, IFPA

This is about a woman, about a woman's decision. It’s about her health, autonomy, dignity - her fundamental rights.

Áine Kavanagh

Advocacy and Communications Assistant, IFPA

Young people are often seen as politically apathetic, but it’s important my generation are involved in the reproductive rights movement.

Dr Catriona Henchion

Medical Director, IFPA

As a doctor I heard so many stories of how abortion law in Ireland caused problems for women.