National Partnership for Women & Families

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Most Irish Support Referendum To Expand Abortion Rights

Most Irish Support Referendum To Expand Abortion Rights

October 15, 2014 — A majority of Ireland residents support holding a referendum on whether to expand the circumstances under which abortion is legal in the country, according to a poll recently published in the Irish Times, Newsweek reports.

The poll was conducted at 120 sampling points throughout the country. It includes responses from 1,200 adults (Sharkov, Newsweek, 10/13).


Last year, Ireland's Parliament legalized abortion when the procedure is needed to save a woman's life, including when there is a threat of suicide because of the pregnancy. The law, called the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, does not allow abortions in instances of rape, incest, fetal anomaly or when there is no prospect of the fetus surviving outside the womb (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/19).

According to Newsweek, 3,679 women who had an abortion outside of the country in 2013 listed an Irish address as their home address. However, charity organizations that work to help Irish women obtain abortions said that figures were likely under-estimates, as women tend to give the addresses of friends or family in the United Kingdom or use medication abortion purchased online.

The country's ruling coalition of political parties ruled out a referendum on abortion access shortly after passing the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, citing the difficultly of putting that legislation forward, Newsweek reports.

Key Survey Findings

According to the survey, 68% of Irish citizens support holding a national vote on whether abortion should be permitted in instances of rape or when a fetus cannot be born alive. Meanwhile, 23% of respondents oppose such a referendum, while 9% are unsure.

The poll found no significant difference between the responses of women and men. Overall, 77% of respondents ages 18 to 24 said they support holding such a referendum, while 40% of residents over age 65 said they would not support the vote. According to the poll, Dublin residents were the most supportive of holding such a referendum (Newsweek, 10/13).