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On Friday, May 25, Ireland votes on whether to repeal its eighth amendment, which in 1983 gave fetuses the right to life. Doing so clears the way for legislation that legalizes abortion, currently banned except in cases where the woman’s life is at risk, for pregnancies up to 12 weeks.
In the days leading up to the vote, social media flooded with photos and posts from Irish citizens abroad coming #HomeToVote, many of them wearing a sweatshirt that has become a symbol of the push to legalize abortion in the majority-Catholic country. The pullovers, which have the word “Repeal” printed across the front in simple, bold type, are made by the Repeal Project, an organization that aims to “make the abortion issue in Ireland visible by supporting the Abortion Rights Campaign & Together For Yes through outerwear.”
I'm coming #HomeToVote ! Will be traveling 5,169 miles from LA to Dublin and will be thinking of every Irish woman who has had to travel to access healthcare that should be available in their own country. Let's do this, Ireland! #repealthe8th #VoteYes pic.twitter.com/fZDxUIGrs9— Lauryn Canny (@LaurynCanny) May 23, 2018
Since founder Anna Cosgrave launched the Repeal Project in 2016, its easily recognizable crewnecks have sold out more than once. They’re currently sold out on the Repeal Project’s website but available in Dublin’s Temple Bar.
Ireland’s polls opened at 7 am on Friday and close at 10 pm, though citizens who live on some of Ireland’s islands voted on Thursday. The results will be tallied on Saturday. It’s expected to be a close vote.
Abortion has been illegal in Ireland since the 19th century, but 1983’s eighth amendment gave fetuses the same right to life as the women carrying them. That law embroiled Ireland in an abortion debate when, in 2012, a 31-year-old woman named Savita Halappanavar died of septicemia after physicians denied her an emergency abortion — at 17 weeks, she was undergoing a miscarriage — because the fetus’s heart had not yet stopped beating.
In 1992, the Irish Supreme Court ruled that a 14-year-old girl who had become pregnant after being raped by a friend’s father could travel to England to have an abortion. Ireland’s 13th and 14th amendments, the result of referendums held in November of that year, gave Irish women the right to leave the country for abortions and to learn about abortion services abroad.
So I forgot my repeal jumper when I first started my travels in January and now my mam and dad are after showing up at Dublin airport with the jumper in hand and I just #HomeToVote #Together4Yes #repealthe8th #VietnamToIreland pic.twitter.com/lJ7yGvg5YO— the cute hoor (@HoorayForNiamh) May 23, 2018
Despite other liberal shifts in national sentiment — Irish citizens voted to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015, and two years later, they elected the country’s first openly gay prime minister, Leo Varadkar — the Catholic Church’s heavy influence continues to make abortion a divisive issue in Ireland.
“The Catholic Church opposes abortion, and some Mass-goers here said priests had told their congregations that they would not be able to receive Communion if they voted yes in the referendum,” the New York Times reported ahead of the May 25 referendum.
The Repeal Project’s sweatshirts bring to mind the pink “pussy hats” that stood as a symbol of Americans’ resistance to the Trump administration, as well as Otherwild’s “The Future Is Female” tees, which use a similarly straightforward font and color palette. And for those watching Ireland’s vote from the US, they serve as a reminder that with President Trump moving to defund Planned Parenthood, the debate over women’s health and right to choose rages here every day.