Ireland votes on its abortion ban, a ‘once in a generation’ decision

Source: The Washington Post

Signs for repealing and keeping Ireland’s abortion ban seen this month next to a cemetery in Castlerea. (James Forde for The Washington Post)

 Aine Kelly knows her home town. “The young leave,” she said. “The old stay.” As the 29-year-old campaigner with a stack of pamphlets walked through a housing development, knocking on doors, the locals revealed themselves: They were retirees who favored garden trolls, statues of the Virgin Mary and wee, excitable dogs.

“Hello, sir!” Kelly said to an elderly gentleman who kept a wheelbarrow filled with peat for his fireplace. “We’re here to talk to you about the referendum and what you might be thinking.”

For the next seven minutes, Kelly and the man in a gray sweater engaged in a remarkable conversation, a civil, skeptical, charged, raw and very personal debate, about what Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar this week called “a once-in-a-generation decision.”

The Irish will vote Friday on whether to scrap the Eighth Amendment to their Constitution. The amendment, passed in 1983, gave “the unborn” and the mother “the equal right to life” and outlawed almost all abortions — even in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormality or risk to maternal health.

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