Irish Women Are Returning #HomeToVote In Abortion Referendum

Thousands are returning home to vote to repeal the eighth amendment, to effectively legalise abortion in the country.

What you need to know
  • Ireland is holding a referendum on Friday on whether or not to repeal the eighth amendment
  • Thousands of citizens from around the world, including Australia, are returning home to vote
  • The eighth amendment gives equal rights to embryos, with women seeking terminations in Ireland facing up to 14 years imprisonment if they undergo the procedure
  • Thousands of women each year travel to the UK for abortions

Irish women and men from around the world are returning home to vote in Friday's historic referendum that would see abortion effectively legalised in the predominantly Catholic country.

Friday's vote is on whether or not to repeal the constitution's Eighth Amendment, which equates the life of a woman to that of an embryo.

The pro-choice group spearheading the #HomeToVote movement, the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign, believes about 40,000 people who recently left Ireland could be eligible to vote.

One woman making the journey home to Ireland with her young daughters tweeted she was travelling "so they won't have to", referring to the thousands of women forced to travel to the UK for an abortion each year.

Hundreds of people are documenting their travels home using the hashtags #hometovote and #repealthe8th, making the trip however possible.

Irish citizens living in Australia are among those travelling home, with others returning from countries as far away as Brazil, Costa Rica, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan and Canada.

One woman who was holidaying in Bali booked a last minute flight home after seeing others make the journey to vote, and realising she would "never forgive myself if this vote doesn't go through and I didn't even get to use my vote".

"My excuse was the date for the referendum wasn't announced when I'd planned this trip and there was no way I could afford to fly home and fly back out again," wrote Ciara Cremin on Instagram. "But I can make that money back again sooner or later and really, what are we if we aren't willing to take action for the things we believe in?"

Another woman living in Northern Ireland, Lauren O'Sullivan, tweeted that her cross-border car hire fees were waived by an employee "with a wink and smile" who saw her 'REPEAL' jumper.

Dozens of total strangers travelling to Ireland to repeal the Eighth Amendment are reporting making friends with other men and women doing the same thing.

In emotional scenes at Dublin airport, those arriving home to vote are being greeted with cheers, applause and welcome home packs.

Irish people are making offers of anything from rides to beds for the night to encourage people to come back and vote.

Since 2013, terminations have only been allowed in Ireland where the life of the mother is deemed to be at risk, with women who undergo abortions otherwise facing a 14-year jail term.

It forces thousands of women each year to travel to the UK in order to undergo the procedure. In 2016, for example, the Irish Department of Health said there were just 25 legal abortions carried out in Ireland, while over 3,000 women that same year traveled to the UK for a termination.

The Eighth Amendment was added to the country's constitution after a referendum in 1983, which acknowledged that "the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right."

However, the tide of opinion is changing, with 87 percent of people in Ireland wanting access to abortion expanded, according to an Amnesty International poll in 2016.

80 percent of people want abortion access where the woman's life or health is at risk, or where the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, while 38 percent of those in favour want access in all circumstances. Only 5 percent of respondents were opposed to abortion in all circumstances.