Today is a historic day for Ireland. The results from yesterday’s referendum on repealing the eighth amendment are in, and the Irish people overwhelmingly voted yes (66% for repeal). The eighth amendment of the Irish constitution denies women the right to abortion, including victims of rape and incest and in cases of fatal foetal abnormality. This amendment was adopted in 1983. It guarantees the right to life of the “unborn”, meaning the life of the woman and the life of the foetus are seen as equal. It has led to much suffering and in some cases death for the women of Ireland. It has meant that for 35 years women wishing to terminate a pregnancy have had to travel abroad to do so. It has also meant that some women in Ireland were forced to carry their pregnancy to term even though it was known the baby would be born dead.
One of the women who died because of the eighth amendment was 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar, a dentist, who was miscarrying in an Irish hospital in 2012. She died of septicaemia because the medical staff would not terminate the pregnancy. Halappanavar had requested a medical termination—after being told she was miscarrying—but she was refused. The medical staff allowed her to suffer in agony for three days. Their reason: the 17-week-old foetus still had a heartbeat. An inquest was ordered, and the BBC reported in 2013: “Dr. Peter Boylan, the former master of the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, told the inquest that Savita would probably still be alive today if she had got a termination in the first three days of her stay in the hospital, but that under Irish law an abortion would have been illegal because there was ‘not a real and substantial risk to her life at that stage.’”
Pictured below is the mural of Savita Halappanavar in Dublin, where many people have left flowers and notes in the last few days. This historic vote will lead to better reproductive healthcare for the women of Ireland. Today we celebrate this monumental win for women's rights. We remember Savita Halappanavar. Out of compassion for women the people of Ireland have said a resounding Never Again! This is a day to remember.
 BBC News, How Savita Halappanavar’s death called attention to Irish abortion law, April 19, 2013, Shane Harrison
© 2018 Alline Cormier