Irish expats flocked back to Ireland to partake in the controversial abortion referendum on Friday. The #HomeToVote hashtag has taken over Instagram and Twitter as expats travel back to Ireland and document their experience.
According to the New York Times, Ireland does not allow absentee voting, so any citizen who is currently abroad and wants to have their voice heard in this historic referendum must travel back to Ireland. The number of expats traveling back home to vote is similar to that of the same-sex marriage vote that took place in 2015.
Abortion is completely outlawed in Ireland, according to their Eighth Amendment. The law “equates the right to life of a pregnant woman with that of her fetus, thereby nearly criminalizing abortion,” per the Washington Post. Thus, abortion is completely illegal in all circumstances including “rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormality and risk to the woman’s health.” According to the Irish Times, due to the restrictive law, 170,000 women have fled the country to seek an abortion.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee is a “body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by its State parties” that has been fighting the Eighth Amendment for some time now, without any success. That is, until 2012, when a 31-year-old pregnant woman, Savita Halappanavar, died due to an infection in her blood known as sepsis. The infection came a few days after doctors told her that she would miscarry the baby, but they could not perform an abortion. This incident spurred an overwhelming public reaction to the inhumane abortion law and an investigation at the hospital where Halappanavar was treated.
Since then, #repealthe8th has been circulating on social media as the public attempts to fight the law. The Times calls Ireland’s Eighth Amendment the most restrictive abortion law in the entire European Union. If the referendum passes, abortions that are performed within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy will become legal. Despite the backlash following Halappanavar’s death in 2012, it’s difficult to say exactly what the country will decide—not all of the expats using the #HomeToVote are voting yes, as Ireland is a strictly Catholic country and not everyone is on board with the idea of a woman terminating a pregnancy. Two more hashtags have emerged, clearly defining the pro-choice and pro-life parties.
Earlier today, the voter turnout was predicted to exceed that of the same-sex-marriage vote, as noted in another report by the Irish Times. The voting booths will close at 10 p.m. local time tonight, and the votes will be counted early on Saturday morning. Sometime tomorrow, it will be announced whether the inhumane Eighth Amendment will be lifted.