How an Irish-American woman’s legal case helped spur Ireland’s abortion referendum

Source: The Washington Post

On a shelf in Amanda Mellet’s bedroom sits a wooden box that holds the ashes of her baby girl. A small plaque bears the child’s name, Aoife, “beauty” in Gaelic, and marks the birthday that never was: Dec. 2, 2011.

The ashes are a private reminder of an experience at the center of a searching public debate over abortion, outlawed here even in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormality and non-life-threatening risk to maternal health.


Ireland will decide by referendum on May 25 whether to repeal its constitution’s eighth amendment, one of the most severe abortion bans in the developed world. Approved by 67 percent of Irish voters in 1983, the amendment grants a mother and her unborn child an equal right to life. Seeking or providing an abortion in Ireland is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Now, polling suggests that a majority may vote to repeal. That would clear the way for lawmakers to debate proposed legislation allowing abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and beyond that in cases of fetal abnormalities or serious risks to the mother’s health.

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