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Stories of the people who came #HomeToVote

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Under Ireland's current constitution, abortion is illegal under any circumstance. 

 

In 1983, Ireland passed its Eighth Amendment which recognised the equal right to life of the mother and her unborn child. It was passed after a majority voted in favour of making abortion illegal.

 

Since 1992, Irish women have been allowed to travel abroad to perform abortions. However, abortion in Ireland is punishable by fourteen years imprisonment.

 

Today, May 25th, Ireland is holding its referendum on whether or not to repeal the amendment. If a majority vote in favour of repeal, then medical professionals with have the power to perform abortions legally.

Irish voters from all over the world have returned home to vote in person as postal and proxy votes are not allowed under the current system. The National Student spoke to some expats who travelled from Japan, Vietnam and Brussels to repeal the eighth.

 

Here are their stories:

 

Callan Coughlan

 

Callan, an Assistant Artist Manager at Askonas Holt, travelled 9 hours on train and boat from his London home to the polling station in Dublin.

 

"Abortion is very much the reality of Irish society today," he told us, "countless Irish women every year have to make the impossibly lonely journey to the UK to have it carried out. They're left in a foreign country with no after-care and are expected to return to Ireland without any support from their own health care system. 

 

Callan told us that the most important impact of the repeal would be letting women know that they are trusted and cared for by their government.

 

When asked if there was anything he wanted people to know, he said it was important that they understood that voting to repeal does not mean voting in favour of abortion.

 

"Voting yes means getting rid of an extremely harmful part of Irish legislation that has resulted in the shaming of thousands of Irish women during a difficult crisis in their lives."

 

Emma Flynn

 

Freelance writer Emma Flynn left Ireland with her partner in January and now live in Bucharest, Romania. They booked their flights as soon as the referendum was confirmed. 

 

"Not coming back to vote was never an option for us, we felt it was the least we could do. I left my apartment in Bucharest at 4 am on Friday 19th and arrived and my parents' house at 6 pm on Saturday."

 

Flynn explained that she was voting on behalf of Irish women who have died as a result of the Eighth Amendment and for the women who were forced to carry through pregnancies that were the result of rape.

 

"Going home means so much to me because Ireland is currently a country where a legacy of Catholic intervention in the state has informed our healthcare and I passionately believe that reform is essential.

 

"It's so important to realise that abortion is happening in Ireland now. Women are forced to order abortion pills over the internet and take them alone, afraid and in secret. They risk prison sentences of up to 14 years."

 

Matthew Corbally

 

Activist and literary enthusiast Matthew Corbally lives in Sakata, Japan. He travelled for nearly two days on an overnight bus and two flights to get back to Ireland in time to repeal the eighth. 

 

He told us that it was important to get a popular movement going to ensure Ireland repeals the amendment.

 

"The proposed legalisation is 12 weeks for most cases, which is not as generous as other jurisdictions, but it is a start.

 

"So long as pregnant women have the freedom to travel, then restricting abortion in Ireland serves only to keep it from working-class women and to impose unnecessary hardships on women dealing with crisis pregnancies."

 

Niamh

 

Niamh travelled 20 hours from her home in Hanoi, Vietnam to Dublin to cast her vote in the "once in a generation opportunity to change Ireland for the better."

 

"The 8th amendment is not just about abortion. It impacts every pregnancy in Ireland whether the woman wants an abortion or not. 

 

"We need better healthcare for women in this country, we need laws that don't put medical professionals in unethical situations and where women can feel safe here at home." 

 

Sam Ryan

 

Brussels national Sam was making his way to Limerick when we last spoke to him. His journey from Brussels took half a day and he was amazed at the people coming from Australia, Canada and Japan.

 

"Two years ago, women came out in their droves to support the LGBT community as they asked for marriage equality. I am proud to be with them when they are fighting for their rights.

 

"Repeal will mean we can look after women in need in Ireland and not make them suffer the loneliness of having to self-administrate abortion tablets or the indignity of having to travel abroad to have access to healthcare, often in a time of crisis."

Aoife Doran

 

Third-year Politics student Aiofe, travelled from Amstelveen in Amsterdam where she is studying on an Erasmus programme. She returns to Amsterdam on Sunday in time for her Monday exams. 

 

She told us that her vote was a duty to the Irish women.

 

"This referendum is about installing compassion in the Irish state. Something which the state has not had for women with the likes of laundries, mother and baby homes and the marriage bar. This is no longer a debate about morality... this is about compassion and acknowledging female agency when it comes to sexuality and performance of sexuality.

 

"Female sexuality is feared in Ireland and has created a sense of misogyny in the state which I can't stand for. This vote would counter that."

 

This article was co-written with Kara Williams.

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