Can I vote in Ireland’s abortion referendum?

An unplanned pregnancy can mean difficult decisions, but if you’re an Irish citizen, you also have to navigate the law. Ireland is holding a referendum which could change things. We spoke to Claire, from the London Irish Abortion Rights campaign, to understand what’s involved.

Abortion Law in Ireland

Currently, in the Republic of Ireland, if you want to terminate a pregnancy, in almost all cases, you have to travel overseas for an abortion, or access abortion pills illegally online. Abortion is also illegal in Northern Ireland in most cases, and punishable with up to life imprisonment.

If you’ve chosen to have an abortion, it is your legal right to be able to leave Ireland to do so. Abortion Support Network was set up specifically to help women from Ireland and Northern Ireland access abortions abroad. They assist with fees and accommodation. Marie Stopes UK also provide information and support for women in Ireland, and can aid with arranging private treatment.

It is also your legal right to access free pregnancy counselling, free post-abortion counselling, and free post-abortion medical check-ups in Ireland, funded by the State. Be sure to take advantage of these to receive the best support.

How many Irish women are affected by current abortion laws?

Nine women a day travel to the UK from the Republic of Ireland for an abortion and three Irish women a day order abortion pills online.

What is a referendum and why is it happening?

A referendum is a direct vote put to the people, with a question on a certain proposal. Ireland’s abortion laws are enshrined in the constitution, which means they required a referendum to change them.

What is the 8th amendment?

The eighth amendment is the amendment to the Irish constitution which makes abortion illegal. All women in the Republic of Ireland are affected by the eighth amendment – it places the life of the foetus with the same importance as the life of the mother. This does not only affect those in crisis pregnancy situations, but it has major implications for maternal healthcare in general.

Who can vote in the referendum, and how?

Irish citizens can vote in the referendum, as long as they are registered by May 8th, and haven’t been living out of the country for more than 18 months.

I’m Irish, and live abroad – can I still vote?

Irish citizens abroad are registered to vote for up to 18 months after they leave the country. You need to return home to vote though, as there is no postal vote in Ireland. You can get more information at

How will the law change if the referendum is passed?

If the referendum is passed, the Irish houses of parliament (the Oireachtas) will then need to write new legislation. The proposed legislation outlines that abortion will be legal in Ireland for up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, and gestational limits will not apply in cases of a foetal condition or on grounds of risk to health.

Next Steps

  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.


Updated on 30-Apr-2018