Tears of joy have been shed across Ireland today as supporters of abortion reform have won a landslide victory in a historic referendum.
Voters cast their ballots yesterday on whether to overhaul the country’s Eight Amendment which makes abortions illegal except in cases where it endangers a mother’s life.
But today anti-abortion campaign leaders conceded defeat in the vote after exit polls predicted almost 70 per cent said Yes to repealing the amendment.
The British government cannot ignore the expected massive endorsement for abortion reform in the Irish Republic while a near total ban on terminations remains over the border in Northern Ireland, Amnesty International has said.
While describing the projected victory for the yes side as a “momentous win for women’s rights” the global human rights group said their counterparts in Northern Ireland were “still prosecuted by a Victorian-era abortion ban”.
Northern Ireland is now the only region in the UK where the 1967 Abortion Act does not apply, said Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland campaign manager:
It’s hypocritical, degrading and insulting to Northern Irish women that we are forced to travel for vital healthcare services but cannot access them at home. The UK government can no longer turn a blind eye and deny us equality. We cannot be left behind in a corner of the UK and on the island of Ireland as second-class citizens.
The UK’s supreme court is soon expected to make a ruling on a case considering whether the regional abortion ban breaches Northern Irish women’s rights. And in September the court in London will hear the case of a mother who is being prosecuted for buying abortion pills for her daughter.