Irish voters narrowly defeated a referendum that would have increased the prohibitions on when women in Ireland are permitted to seek an abortion. The confusingly worded referendum would have allowed woman to have an abortion if her life was at risk, but would have barred the threat of suicide as one of the possible life threatening risks. Current Irish law allows abortion if the woman’s life is at risk and recognizes suicide as one type of life-threatening risk.
The conservative Irish government and the Catholic Church heavily supported the referendum. At mass last week, priests read letters urging a “yes” vote on the referendum. In promoting the referendum, anti-abortion forces claimed that women would falsely claim to be suicidal in order to get an abortion.
The prime minister of Ireland, who supported the referendum, stated that one of the reasons it was defeated is “[w]omen of all ages are seemingly not as conservative as they used to be.” Irish law also permits women to travel overseas to obtain an abortion; it is estimated that 7,000 Irish women a year travel to England to get an abortion. A study by Trinity College in Dublin found that 1 in 10 pregnancies in Ireland end in an abortion in England.