What Is #RepealThe8th And Why Does It Matter?

Ellen Lees
By Ellen Lees,
updated on May 25, 2018

What Is #RepealThe8th And Why Does It Matter?

#TogetherForYes and #RepealThe8th are just two of the hashtags you’ll see today as people come together to support Ireland during today’s referendum

Today is a big day for Ireland. Today is the day the people of Ireland are able to vote whether or not to remove - or repeal - the 8th Amendment from its constitution.

What is the 8th Amendment?

Introduced in 1983, the 8th Amendment is a part of the constitution that gives an embryo or foetus an “equal right to life” to a pregnant girl or woman.

The 8th Amendment means that abortion is illegal in Ireland, even if the pregnancy puts the woman’s health at serious risk, in cases or rape or incest, or where the foetus is likely to die before or shortly after birth.

Doctors are also prevented from providing the full range of medical care to pregnant women. A women diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy for example, may not be allowed to receive chemotherapy.

Currently in Ireland, providing or having an abortion is a serious criminal offence, carrying penalty of up to 14 years in prison. In cases of rape, the women seeking abortion could potentially serve more time than her attacker.

What are they voting on?

The referendum is asking if people want to remove the 8th Amendment from the Constitution, by approving the 36th Amendment. If Ireland vote yes, new laws will be introduced allowing women to access abortion in the following circumstances:

  • If there is a risk to the mental or physical health of the woman.
  • If there is a diagnosis of a fatal foetal condition.
  • During early pregnancy for a woman’s own personal reasons, including rape and incest.

If yes, Ireland will introduce new measures to reduce the need for abortion through education and contraception. Abortion care in Ireland will be medically regulated, and ethical guidelines and standards will apply.

If yes, a woman will be able to make important decisions about her own health, and doctors will be able to treat pregnant women the same as any other patient.

If Ireland vote no, abortion will remain illegal.

Who’s behind the change?

Together for Yes is the national campaign working to remove the 8th Amendment.

Together for Yes is a group of more than 70 organisations, groups and communities representing a diverse cross-section of Irish civil society. Co-led by the National Women’s Council, the Coalition To Repeal The 8th Amendment and the Abortion Rights Campaign, the people behind Together for Yes are working for “a more compassionate Ireland” in which the laws reflect the reality of people’s lives.

On the referendum, they say: “Abortion is already happening in Ireland. Everybody acknowledges that. We just have unsafe abortions. Women are taking abortion pills every day, unsupported and alone in their bedrooms and bathrooms.

“So this is a vote to decide if we are going to regulate it, make it safe and care for the women who need it. This is a vote about how we as a country treat pregnant women in a crisis situation.”

Thousands of people are showing their support, in person or through social media. And they're not alone, celebrities around the world are also joining the conversation.

For more information on the referendum, visit The Referendum Commission.

For mental health support and to find a counsellor near you, visit Counselling Directory.

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