Irish return home to vote in landmark abortion referendum

Irish return home to vote in landmark abortion referendum
World Health Organization via CNN

They are traveling from Los Angeles and Sydney, Buenos Aires and Toronto, Stockholm and London to have their say in a landmark referendum that has divided their country.

Ireland will vote Friday on whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the country’s constitution, which says a mother and her fetus have equal rights to life.

If Yes wins, Ireland is expected to enact legislation that will allow for terminations up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy. A No vote would keep Ireland’s abortion laws — some of the strictest in the European Union — in place.

Men and women from the Irish diaspora and both sides of the debate have posted about their journeys home on social media under the hashtag #HomeToVote, sharing photos and stories from airports, planes, cars and trains.

Lauryn Canny, a Yes voter, tweeted a photo of her passport and boarding pass along with another picture of herself wearing a “Repeal” sweatshirt. “I’m coming #HomeToVote ! Will be traveling 5,169 miles from LA to Dublin and will be thinking of every Irish woman who has had to travel to access healthcare that should be available in their own country.”

Fia, traveling from Toronto, tweeted that she booked her flights home from Toronto “approximately 25 seconds” after the referendum date was announced. “To all of the women who have been, and continue to be affected by the 8th amendment – I’m so sorry. The women of Ireland deserve better,” she wrote.

Some people, like Alice Murphy, said they were unable to travel but offered to pay for flights home for Irish voters in Britain who were struggling with money.

Another Irish voter tweeted how she had forgotten her “Repeal” sweatshirt on her way back from Vietnam, but her parents showed up at Dublin airport with a replacement for her.

Others expressed relief to meet other Irish people on the flight from Buenos Aires.

No voters also tweeted their stories, using both that hashtag and #hometovoteno, among others.

Charlie Marglethon-Greenfree tweeted: “Off #hometovote! Come on. Don’t vote to kill people like me: we may be/have been unwanted, but that doesn’t make us any less human.”

The UK-based London-Irish United for Life, a No campaign group, also posted some stories of Irish people going back to vote against changing the law.

“I support saving the 8th because I don’t want Ireland to mirror the abortion culture in the UK, where babies are aborted for any reason,” said Breda from Donegal in a video tweeted by the group.

“Every year there are roughly 185,000 abortions in England & Wales alone. That’s over twice the capacity of Croke Park,” the organization wrote of the 82,300-capacity stadium in Dublin.

Rebecca from Dublin told London-Irish United for Life that she was going home to vote because she thinks “women deserve better than being pitted against their babies. I think babies deserve the right to life, they deserve protection just as anybody else does, and I don’t believe that this is the best thing for women. I think women deserve better than abortions.”