Tens of thousands of Irish expats called home for abortion referendum

Published:  20 Mar at 6 PM
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Citizens of the Republic of Ireland living and working overseas, are being urged to return to the Emerald Isle in order to vote in the abortion referendum.

The Home to Vote campaign is stepping up its call to the Irish diaspora in the UK, USA, Canada and Europe to come back to the home country to vote in May’s historic abortion referendum. Although the request may sound crazy to non-Irish expats, there’s a precedent for the call in that thousands of Irish did exactly that in order to vote on the 2015 same sex marriage bill. The scheme worked, as those in favour of a change in the law totalled a two-thirds majority.

Campaigners for abortion freedom are hoping the appeal will have the same effect on the upcoming vote. Abortion law in the traditionally Catholic Republic of Ireland is extremely strict, banning all abortions even in cases of foetal abnormality and rape, and is enshrined in the country’s constitution. The May 25 referendum is seeking for a majority vote to repeal the law, thus permitting unrestricted abortions up to the 12th week of pregnancy.

Over the past 35 years, around 170,000 Irish women have gone to the UK for terminations, and around 2,000 women every year have used the illegal abortion pill, easily purchased online. Pre-referendum polls are showing a majority favouring repeal, with younger Irish expats in particular supporting it en masse.

According to London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign spokeswoman Cara Sanquest, the call isn’t just to the massive Irish population in the city, it’s to Irish citizens anywhere in the world who feel social attitudes in the home country need updating to the 21st century in order to shape the state’s future. She’s asking Irish expatriates to make the journey in reverse that so many Irish women have been forced to make to have their abortions in the UK. The group is also planning to offer financial help to those struggling to fund transportation costs.
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