The abortion vote in Ireland: A blow against reaction
29 May 2018
The overwhelming “Yes” vote in the Irish referendum on abortion rights, by a margin of 1,429,981 votes for to 723,632 votes against, is a landmark victory both for the Irish working class and for the defense of democratic rights internationally. In a country that for centuries has been synonymous with domination by the medieval backwardness of the Roman Catholic Church, where as recently as 20 years ago both contraception and divorce were illegal, two-thirds of those voting in a heavy turnout supported the legalization of abortion. It is a demonstration that, while the official parties of bourgeois Europe are all moving to the right, the working class and sections of the middle class are moving to the left.
Last Friday’s vote is an exact reversal of the 1983 referendum that enacted the Eighth Amendment to the Irish constitution, formally prohibiting abortion by giving the unborn fetus legal rights equal to those of a pregnant woman. That referendum, backed by the Catholic hierarchy and Ireland’s major parties, passed by a two-to-one margin. The referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment was opposed by the hierarchy, but the bishops avoided a prominent public role because of a series of major scandals that have shattered the Church’s claims to infallibility and moral superiority, involving sexual abuse by priests, enslavement of women in convent enterprises, and the discovery of a mass grave of at least 800 children born “out of wedlock” over many decades in rural Tuam, dumped in the septic tank of a Catholic home for unwed mothers.
The main bourgeois parties—Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Labour and Sinn Fein—all officially endorsed a “yes” vote, although the two largest, Fine Gael and Fianna…