Ireland’s Struggle for Abortion Rights Should Be an Inspiration for the US

Irish pro-choice activists had to overcome a rigid constitutional ban on abortion that was in place for more than 30 years. They succeeded by putting mass mobilization and a confident assertion of the right to choose at the heart of their campaign.

In May 2018, the Irish electorate voted by a two-to-one majority to remove or “repeal” the prohibition on abortion, known as the Eighth Amendment, from the country’s constitution. While opinion polls had suggested that pro-choice campaigners would win, most predicted a nerve-rackingly close result; certainly no one anticipated the sheer scale of the victory and the support for abortion access found across every section of society, from young to old, urban to rural.

In the aftermath of the recent US Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and the introduction of abortion bans in at least ten US states, the history of the Irish struggle for abortion rights can offer some insights into the lived reality of blanket bans on abortion and, perhaps more usefully, illuminate how the struggle for abortion rights can be won in a country where abortion has been bitterly contested.

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