20,000 people walked the streets of the Irish capital Dublin yesterday demanding a change to the country’s strict abortion laws.
With an openly gay Prime Minister for the first time in its history, many human rights groups in Ireland thought that the time had come to make their voices on the issue heard. Ireland is a very strict Catholic country and abortion is mostly a taboo issue.
All that is about to change as Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has promised to put the issue up for a referendum in May or June of next year, just before a planned visit of the Pope.
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Currently, abortion is strictly illegal in Ireland unless the mother’s life is in danger. The legal surroundings are different in some other European countries so Irish girls and women often take a flight to the European continent or to Britain to have the procedure done over there.
Irish senator Aodhan O'Riordain said: "This is an issue of choice. What we want is for the people to have theirs say People have a right to abortion information and a right to travel to have an abortion, yet we don't have that facility in Ireland. That time has come."
The protesters agreed that next year’s referendum should be ‘meaningful opportunity this settle discussion’ once and for all.
The loosening of the abortion issue was injected in the Irish constitution as the ‘Eighth Amendment’. It was added in 1983 and gave equal rights to a fetus and a pregnant woman. The maximum penalty for accessing an illegal abortion in Ireland is 14 years in prison.
Ms. Mara Clarke, spokeswoman for the Abortion Rights Campaign said they had helped 801 Irish women last year who could not afford to pay for an abortion in Europe: “I can’t wait for our service to be obsolete”.
There were also counter-protests. A Pro-life campaigner, Miss Niamh Ui Bhriain: "Most people in this country do not agree with abortion on demand, and most do not agree with those who are marching today."