And it all happened because of a national referendum.
Actually in May 2015, right before I came to Ireland, the country made history by becoming the first in the world to legalize gay marriage through popular vote. Meaning that while there were other countries that recognized gay marriage before that, it was done through legislation arranged by their governments. Ireland was the first to legalize it through a public referendum.
As an aside, there were lively gay parades to celebrate the decision, and a gay bar with a hugely famous gay celebrity (a person that has published some books) along the main avenue. The gay parades happened right after I got to Ireland, so when I stumbled, heavily intoxicated, into a club with my roommate the night of the parade, it was packed with gay couples. For some reason, a really tall woman planted a wet kiss on me. It was a great experience that really reminded me of my personal boundaries! LOL
Here’s a picture of the gay parades.
This time, the referendum was about legalizing abortions within Ireland.
As I wrote about in a previous post, Ireland’s long history of Catholicism made it unthinkable to terminate a life prior to birth, and abortions are illegal for women of any nationality inside Irish borders. Apparently there are exceptions in the case of rape or endangerment to the life of the mother, for example. However, women under circumstances which made an abortion unavoidable would travel to neighboring countries to get it done.
Of course, life is still life. I can’t say whether an abortion is the right choice for someone simply based on their personal circumstances. But you do hear in the Japanese news from time to time about a girl getting pregnant at an age when she couldn’t possibly raise a child, and ends up having it alone in a bathroom stall and abandoning it there. Sometimes, even if they have a healthy baby, they end up abdicating their responsibility and neglecting it. In cases like those, I end up wondering whether the fate of that child is a result of the fact that the girl couldn’t get an abortion. Of course I do not totally support abortions, but if it’s an option for people, I feel like the country might be better off for it.
As I wrote about before, this issue is inseparable from Ireland’s religious history. Naturally, abortion is simply unforgivable under any circumstances for many people of older generations. But you saw lots of younger people and those in the prime of life—even businessmen in suits—walking around sporting YES stickers and badges on their chests. Posters covered with passionate appeals from both sides covered every inch of the telephone poles, to the point that you’d see YES posters spray painted with huge NOs and vice versa. It was a bit of an explosive situation.
Here are some of the YES posters.
And here are some NOs.
Ultimately, the majority voted YES outside of the rural Western areas, so it is likely that the measure will pass. This is truly a huge step forward for Ireland, and despite the fact that I didn’t have the right to vote in the referendum, as a woman I’m very interested in how everything turns out for the country. It’s somewhere I’ve lived for a long time, so from the sidelines I’m always hoping that it will become a better and better place.