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MALTATODAY 11 December 2022

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13 NEWS maltatoday | SUNDAY • 11 DECEMBER 2022 Ireland's abortion timeline rejected the prohibition of abortion, substantially more than the 59% who rejected the prohibition of divorce in 1974. In Ireland and Italy, what made a big difference was that an abstract moral principle was set against re- al-life stories and dilemmas faced by women in daily life. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar him- self credited the personal stories of women denied abortions, including their trials of travelling abroad for the procedure, with swaying the pub- lic to vote Yes. "Ireland is a small country and politics are a personal business to a degree that only a small country can afford," Graham Finlay, a lecturer at the University College Dublin's School of Politics and Internation- al Relations, was quoted as saying by Politico. "That is why the ref- erendum was won by people telling their personal stories, in public or to friends and families." Moreover, Irish public opinion was also shaped by harrowing stories of women denied abortion despite hav- ing their lives at risk. Images of foe- tuses and babies were everywhere in Ireland, purportedly begging from lamp-posts and billboards to be spared from what has been called by more than one anti-abortion cam- paigner a "Holocaust." Still people were more ready to identify with the dilemmas faced by their daughters, nieces or next-door neighbours. Moreover, the referendum saw all major political leaders including Fi- anna Fail leader Michael Martin and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar sup- porting the repeal of the ban while giving a free vote to their MPs and supporters. On the other hand the left-wing Sinn Fein, the greens and Labour actively supported lifting the ban. Curiously, a video message from Independent Irish MP Carol Nolan was played out during last Sunday's anti-abortion protest in Valletta. In her message, Nolan urged the crowd to not let Malta go down Ireland's route. "I urge you in Malta to safe- guard the lives of mothers and babies and make sure this legislation does not come into effect." Yet by hinting at an abrogative referendum to re- peal a timid law safeguarding the life and health of women in rare and ex- ceptional circumstances, it may well be the case that it is the local pro-life movement which is going down Ire- land's route. 1861 – The law Abortion is first banned in Ireland in 1861 by the Of- fences Against the Person Act 1983 – The first referendum The Eighth Amendment to the Republic's constitution is introduced after a ref- erendum. It "acknowledges the right to life of the un- born and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right". 1992 – The X case, and another referendum A 14-year-old suicidal rape victim is initially prevented by the courts from travelling to England to terminate her pregnancy. It is a controver- sy that will become known as the X Case. The ruling is later overturned by Ireland's Supreme Court which de- creed that a credible threat of suicide is grounds for an abortion in Ireland. This prompted a referendum on three issues. The Thirteenth Amendment, permitting travel to obtain abortion in another juris- diction, was approved by 62% to 38%. The Fourteenth Amendment, permitting in- formation about services in other countries, was ap- proved by 60% to 40%. The twelfth amendment pro- posed that the possibility of suicide was not a sufficient threat to justify an abortion. This was rejected by propos- al was put to a referendum on 25 November 1992 but was rejected by 65% of vot- ers. 2002 – A referendum on suicide Another referendum is held and the people of Ireland are asked if the threat of suicide as a ground for le- gal abortion should be re- moved. It is again rejected by voters. 2010 – European Court of Human Rights ruling After three women take a case against Ireland, the European Court of Human Rights rules the state has failed to provide clarity on the legal availability of abortion in circumstances where the mother's life is at risk. 2012 – The Savita Halappanavar case A campaign to liberalise abortion gathers momen- tum, after Indian woman Savita Halappanavar dies in a Galway hospital after she is refused an abortion dur- ing a miscarriage, despite having repeatedly asked for a termination but was re- fused because there was a foetal heartbeat. 2013 – A new law to protect women Abortion legislation is again amended to allow termina- tions under certain con- ditions – the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act is signed into law. It legalises abortion when doctors deem that a women's life is at risk due to medical com- plications, or at risk of tak- ing her life. This law gives effect to the 1992 Supreme Court ruling that abortion is permitted where the moth- er's life, as opposed to her health, is at risk. 2017 – A Citizens' Assembly makes recommendation A Citizens' Assembly votes 64% to 36% in favour of having no restrictions in early pregnancy. 2018 – A historic vote for choice On 25 May, voters go to the polls, where the ballot asks if they wish to approve the 36th Amendment to Ire- land's constitution – a bill which would repeal the Eighth Amendment, the ban on abortion. Turnout is 64.51%, and the result is just short of two-thirds in fa- vour of ending the country's ban on abortion: 66.4% yes to 33.6% no. The Yes vote allows the government in Dublin to introduce legis- lation allowing abortion in the first 12 weeks of preg- nancy, and between 12 and 24 weeks in exceptional cir- cumstances. "What we have seen today really is a culmi- nation of a quiet revolution that's been taking place in Ireland for the past 10 or 20 years," says Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. It was former Irish PM and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar who was the driving force behind the historic Irish referendum to remove the constitutional ban on abortion in 2019, and the subsequent approval of a liberal abortion law

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