Thousands march in Dublin for abortion rights
Tens of thousands of people marched in Dublin on Saturday to demand the loosening of some of the strictest abortion laws in the world ahead of a 2018 referendum on the issue.
Abortion remains a divisive issue in once stridently Catholic Ireland, where a complete ban on the procedure was only lifted in 2013 to allow terminations in cases where the mother’s life was in danger.
In 2016 over 3,000 Irish women travelled toEngland for abortions, according to the British Department of Health, but activists say the real number is far higher.
The government has promised to hold a referendum next May or June, but it has yet to decide exactly what question to put to the Irish people.
The human rights arms of the United Nations and Council of Europe have pressed the government to decriminalise abortion and widen the law to allow for the procedure in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, rape or incest.
But pro-choice activists want a more liberal regime, closer to that of England, which allows terminations to be carried out up to 24 weeks after conception. Opinion polls show a large majority of voters want some change.
“Government ministers have suggested only the most restrictive terms will pass, but I think the people want more than that,” said Sarah Murphy, a 26-year-old recruitment professional.
“Ireland is changing. I don’t think you would have seen a march like this a few years ago,” she said.