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Ireland votes to liberalize abortion regime in landslide

28 May 2018

While the seriousness of the issue was certainly not lost on any citizen who took part in the vote, the enormous relief brought out a few scenes of unusual joy as the crowd was told by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that "Ireland will still be the same country today as it was before, just a little more tolerant, open and respectful".

Other ministers have called for a referendum, but the Prime Minister is in a hard position because any change in the law would be strongly opposed by the DUP, the party on which she relies for her Commons majority.

According to the Sunday Times, four former holders of the role - Amber Rudd, Justine Greening, Nicky Morgan and Maria Miller - all support Ms Mordaunt in her backing for change in Northern Ireland.

Effectively, that means abortion is banned in Ireland unless the pregnancy poses a real and substantial risk to the mother's life.

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Ann Furedi is chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) and the author of The Moral Case for Abortion, published by Palgrave Macmillan.

Northern Ireland has the harshest criminal penalty for abortion anywhere in Europe; in theory, life imprisonment can be handed down to a woman undergoing an unlawful abortion.

Siobhan Donohue, chairwoman for Termination for Medical Reasons (TFMR), an abortion rights group, said the vote is a relief for women who previously had to travel to Britain to get an abortion.

However, the Northern Ireland government fell apart previous year after months of political intrigue and the assembly hasn't met since January 2017.

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Archbishop Eamon Martin, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, has said he will give thanks in prayer to the "courageous" people who took part in the No campaign in the referendum. "That hope must be met", she said on Twitter.

A spokeswoman for May said changing the rules on abortion is a decision that should be taken by a devolved assembly and the government is working to revive the power-sharing agreement. On abortion, he added, "Northern Ireland has had a settled cross-party view on this for decades". A number of Westminster MPs have called for a Commons vote or a local referendum.

The 31-year-old woman's death had triggered a massive debate in that country over the issue of life-saving abortions.

Westminster is acting as a caretaker leader until a government can be agreed, but sources close to the Prime Minister said no big changes, including on social issues like abortion, should be made during that period.

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Since the collapse of a power sharing administration in Northern Ireland at the beginning of a year ago, British officials have been taking major decisions in the region.

Ireland votes to liberalize abortion regime in landslide