The Specifics: What Ireland’s Vote on Abortion Means

A 'yes' win would signal a giant cultural shift for Europe's Emerald Isle, which is predominantly Irish Catholic

Irish citizens are voting on a landmark referendum Friday that would repeal the nation’s strict anti-abortion laws.

If citizens vote yes on the referendum, the government plans to introduce legislation that would allow abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy — and even in later in specific cases. Friday’s vote will be the fourth time in as many decades that Irish voters have been asked to decide on the issue of abortion.

The debate has become center stage in Ireland, with many people publicly wearing buttons that simply say “yes” or “no.”

An Irish Times poll suggests voters are in favor of repeal, with 63 percent polling yes and 37 percent saying no.

What is the current law? Abortion is only legal in Ireland in rare cases when the mother’s life is in danger. Voters decided to add a referendum to the nation’s constitution in 1983 confirming the “right to life,” according to the Independent.

“The state acknowledges the right to life of the unborn 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,” the amendment said.

Those in favor of legalizing abortion have claimed more than 170,00 women have traveled abroad to have the procedure done — a statistic that was corroborated by the Irish Times. But the Associated Press noted that number has drastically fallen in recent years as women have illegally imported drugs via online websites to terminate pregnancies.

What is the new referendum? If it passes, Ireland would move to allow abortions after a doctor has determined the pregnancy is less than 12 weeks along, according to the Irish Times. It would also establish a waiting period of 72 hours between when the doctor makes his determination and when the procedure can take place, according to the newspaper.

An abortion would also be attainable after that 12-week mark, but only in certain circumstances.

During the debate, pro-abortion activists have sought to highlight difficult cases, including that of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist who was denied an abortion. Halappanavar ultimately died after complications of a miscarriage in an Irish hospital in 2012.

The Irish Times reported that the proposed referendum does not include language regarding abortion in the cases of rape or incest.

If the referendum passes, the government will enact the legislation by the end of the year, according to the Irish Independent.

In this traditionally Roman Catholic nation, a vote in favor of the referendum would mark a historic shift in attitudes toward abortion for Ireland.

Related: Why These Pro-Abortion Forces Hate Transparency

This particular vote also stands out from past referendums dealing with abortion, as the extraordinary power of social media versus the influence of tech giants has played a role in the debate.

Facebook and Google have both taken steps to restrict or remove ads related to the referendum in a move designed to address global concerns about social media’s role in influencing political campaigns. But foreign, outside groups have attempted to circumvent those blocks on social media, according to Politico.

This Fox News piece is used by permission; the Associated Press contributed.

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(photo credit, homepage image: “About Ten Thousand People Attended A Rally In Dublin…”, CC BY-SA 2.0, by William Murphy; photo credit, article image: The Fifth Annual All-Ireland Rally For LifeCC BY-SA 2.0, by William Murphy)

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