Ireland voted to end its ban on abortion. Here's why that's a win for human rights.

In 1983, the people of Ireland voted to ban abortion. 35 years later, they took to the polls once again, reversing that decision in a landslide victory.

Though abortion was already illegal in Ireland prior to the 1983 vote, social conservatives feared that a court decision could render that law unconstitutional, much like what happened in the United States with the 1977 Roe v. Wade decision. So in 1983, to prevent the chance of court intervention, Ireland held a public referendum, voting to amend the country's constitution and adopting the Eighth Amendment, banning abortion in all situations.

In 2017, in response to public pressure, the government announced plans to put this question up for a vote once again. Citizens of Ireland voted on May 25, 2018, and the referendum to lift the ban on abortions won by an impressive margin.


Protesters demonstrate outside the Irish Embassy in London on September 30, 2017, following the announcement of the May 2018 referendum. Photo by Chris J. Ratcliffe/AFP/Getty Images.

To see the nasty history of the Eighth Amendment, look no further than the story of Savita Halappanavar.

In 2012, 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar went to the hospital 17 weeks pregnant. Her pregnancy had an unforeseen complication, and she was having what's known as a septic abortion or miscarriage. There was virtually no chance that she'd be able to carry the pregnancy to term, but doctors were prohibited from ending the pregnancy. Doctors tried to induce labor, resulting in her delivering a stillborn fetus. It was too late for her, however, as the sepsis had gotten worse. She died four days later.

Though the country implemented a law the following year designed to carve out narrow exceptions to the abortion ban in cases like Halappanavar's, abortion rights advocates argued that nothing short of a full repeal would do. Their opinion is shared by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, ruling in 2016 that "the balance that the state party has chosen to strike between protection of the fetus and the rights of the woman in the present case cannot be justified." Other human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, concur.

Horror stories like Halappanavar's are all too common. In 2007, officials tried to prevent a 17-year-old known as "Miss D" from leaving the country to obtain an abortion after learning that her fetus would not survive birth. In 2014, a teenage asylum-seeker known as "Miss Y" was subjected to borderline inhumane treatment after learning that she was pregnant, eventually undergoing a coerced Caesarian section. These cases aren't about protecting some notion of "life"; they're about control and forcing women to experience absolute nightmare scenarios.

A woman stands in front of a mural inside the Bernard Shaw pub in Dublin, Ireland. Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

Bor no ban, abortion has always been accessible for the well-off. The two-tiered nature of this is part of the problem.

Since 1980, 170,000 Irish women have traveled to a foreign country for an abortion, and Ireland makes up nearly 70% of all non-resident abortions in the United Kingdom. Repealing the Eighth Amendment is as much about providing access to all women equally as it is about human rights. Access to health care should not hinge on whether somebody has the time and money to take a multi-day international trip.

A man walks in front of a pro-choice mural in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland, on May 10, 2018. Photo by Artur Widak/AFP/Getty Images.

Though Ireland has voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment, there's still a bit more work to be done before abortion will be legalized — and would still be rife with restrictions.

The next step is for Irish lawmakers to enact new guidelines on abortion. One popular proposal that's been floating around would make abortion legal in all cases during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Between 12 and 24 weeks, abortions would be limited to instances where the life of the mother or long-term viability of the fetus were in danger. After 24 weeks, only pregnancies involving fatal fetal abnormalities would qualify for an abortion. Additionally, people seeking abortions would be subject to mandatory counseling and waiting periods.

It's hardly the free-for-all "no" campaigners would have had you believe. It's also short of what "yes" campaigners would hope for. Still, it's a positive step forward for the country, and it will save lives.

A "Yes" canvasser poses for a photo in Dublin on May 12, 2018. Photo by Artur Widak / AFP/Getty Images.

More
Courtesy of Houseplant.

In America, one dumb mistake can hang over your head forever.

Nearly 30% of the American adult population — about 70 million people — have at least one criminal conviction that can prevent them from being treated equally when it comes to everything from job and housing opportunities to child custody.

Twenty million of these Americans have felony convictions that can destroy their chances of making a comfortable living and prevents them from voting out the lawmakers who imprisoned them.

Many of these convictions are drug-related and stem from the War on Drugs that began in the U.S. '80s. This war has unfairly targeted the minority community, especially African-Americans.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Climate change is happening because the earth is warming at an accelerated rate, a significant portion of that acceleration is due to human activity, and not taking measures to mitigate it will have disastrous consequences for life as we know it.

In other words: Earth is heating up, it's kinda our fault, and if we don't fix it, we're screwed.

This is the consensus of the vast majority of the world's scientists who study such things for a living. Case closed. End of story.

How do we know this to be true? Because pretty much every reputable scientific organization on the planet has examined and endorsed these conclusions. Thousands of climate studies have been done, and multiple peer-reviewed studies have been done on those studies, showing that somewhere between 84 and 97 percent of active climate science experts support these conclusions. In fact, the majority of those studies put the consensus well above 90%.

Keep Reading Show less
Nature
via James Anderson

Two years ago, a tweet featuring the invoice for a fixed boiler went viral because the customer, a 91-year-old woman with leukemia, received the services for free.

"No charge for this lady under any circumstances," the invoice read. "We will be available 24 hours to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible."

The repair was done by James Anderson, 52, a father-of-five from Burnley, England. "James is an absolute star, it was overwhelming to see that it cost nothing," the woman's daughter told CNN.

Keep Reading Show less
Heroes

I live in a family with various food intolerances. Thankfully, none of them are super serious, but we are familiar with the challenges of finding alternatives to certain foods, constantly checking labels, and asking restaurants about their ingredients.

In our family, if someone accidentally eats something they shouldn't, it's mainly a bit of inconvenient discomfort. For those with truly life-threatening food allergies, the stakes are much higher.

I can't imagine the ongoing stress of deadly allergy, especially for parents trying to keep their little ones safe.

Keep Reading Show less
popular