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The Repeal the 8th movement, Ireland
A pro-choice activist at a Repeal the 8th protestvia imgur

Ireland’s archaic abortion law has officially been repealed

History has been made

The Eighth Amendment – a 35-year-old ban on abortion – has formally been repealed in Ireland, as Irish president Michael D Higgins signed the bill into law yesterday (September 18). 

Across decades, the people of Ireland have been fighting to repeal the draconian law. 10 women a day have travelled from Ireland to access safe abortion, women have died, people have faced legal challenge, and countless numbers have taken to the streets in protest. Dazed reported from the frontline of the pro-choice movement in the Ireland Unfree series.

In May, Ireland voted to overturn the amendment 66.4 per cent to 33.6 per cent in a massive landslide win. Though several legal challenges were put forward to keep the amendment in place, they all failed.

“This is a very important day and I know so many people worked so hard to get to this day,” Health minister Simon Harris said in a statement posted to Twitter. “My work obviously continues. We now need to bring in the legislation so that we can enact services to look after women with care and compassion in our own country.”

The law was first implemented in 1983, and placed equal value on the lives of mothers and fetuses. Procuring an abortion could see people convicted for up to 14 years in prison.

Irish prime minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar told the Irish parliament that legislation would be officially introduced in the first week of October, and services for safe and legal abortion access would be in place in the new year. The Irish government has recommended policy that would allow abortion access up to 12 weeks into pregnancy.

In England, it will soon be legal to take early abortion pills at home rather than in a clinic under new government plans. It stops the risk of miscarrying while journeying home following a termination, and makes safe abortion more accessible. 

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, a woman who procured abortion pills for her then-15-year-old daughter is challenging the public prosecution service that charged her. If her case goes to criminal court, she faces 14 years imprisonment. Northern Ireland is the only place in the British Isles with such a strict ban on abortion.