It is such a resounding victory that campaigners in Ireland are weeping with joy. After a tense last few days when the referendum seemed too close to call, it turned out to be a landslide result. Irish people voted overwhelmingly in favor of abolishing the total abortion ban in the constitution. And with this amendment, the last part of an oppressive system that subjugated women in Ireland for centuries has gone. They have achieved what has long been the norm in other European countries: giving women the right to decide for themselves whether they feel capable of having a child or not. And, a woman’s right to get medical help in her own country, without having to travel to Britain as hundreds of thousands of Irish women have done over time.
With this referendum, the Catholic Church has lost its last battle in Ireland. Throughout the last 20 years, as the wrongdoings of clerics and bishops were uncovered, the nation increasingly turned away from its teachings and from the whole intertwined system of state and church. Scandal after scandal of child abuse involving priests was uncovered. The horror of children’s homes where small boys and girls were mistreated and broken was made public. And finally, there was the investigation of the unspeakable Magdalene laundries, where unmarried girls were incarcerated when they became pregnant, were beaten and enslaved, their babies taken from them by force.
This whole system of abuse, this vicious cycle of oppression, was run by the Catholic Church. And it was largely, if not exclusively, directed against women. Ireland has throughout the last 20 years uncovered this dark past and publicized these horrors. The Church subsequently has lost its status in the Irish state and in society. The constitutional amendment completely banning abortion, even risking the life of the mother, was their last bastion. In the end, the Church hardly dared to defend it. The clergy understand that it would have riled people even further and that they have lost their hold over morality and law in Ireland. [Continue reading…]