OH DANNY GIRL

Ireland’s prime minister on Saturday hailed the culmination of “a quiet revolution” in what was once one of Europe’s most socially conservative countries after a landslide referendum vote to liberalize highly restrictive laws on abortion.

Voters in the once deeply Catholic nation backed the change by two-to-one, a far higher margin than any opinion poll in the run up to the vote had predicted, and allows the government to bring in legislation by the end of the year.

“It’s incredible. For all the years and years and years we’ve been trying to look after women and not been able to look after women, this means everything,” said Mary Higgins, obstetrician and Together For Yes campaigner.

For decades, the law forced over 3,000 women to travel to Britain each year for terminations and “Yes” campaigners argued that with others now ordering pills illegally online, abortion was already a reality in Ireland.

I generally avoid blogging about issues like abortion and euthanasia, being more interested and excited about economics and foreign policy. Social issues are of course important, and they are clearly very important to many people personally. In fact, for a lot of people, issues like abortion and euthanasia are the political questions that trump all the others. I respect that, but never felt I had much to add to the debate. I’m not going to change that now, except to say that regardless of how one feels about terminating a pregnancy, the great majority of people out there consider it a sombre occurrence and would probably agree with a statement that in an ideal world there would be fewer abortions. Few would claim that what the world needs to make it a better and happier place are more abortions.

In this context, the scenes of wild jubilation in Ireland over the result of the referendum strike me as somewhat sad. The Irish women essentially now have the right to use abortion as a form of contraception, but the public outpouring of joy and the rhetoric accompanying it seem to me more appropriate for epoch-changing and happy events like the liberation from Nazism or the end of apartheid. But hey, I don’t have a uterus, so what would I know.

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