Volunteers still hopeful after Irish overturn abortion ban

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Voters in Ireland have opted to remove the right to life of the unborn from the country's constitution, paving the way for abortion on demand up to 12 weeks.

Results from the nationwide referendum showed that 66.4 percent of citizens opted to remove the Eighth Amendment from the constitution, while 33.6 percent voted to retain it. Turnout was 64.5 percent.

Voters inserted the original amendment in the constitution in 1983 by a margin of 2-1, and it "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."

That text will now be deleted and replaced with an article stating that "provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy."

In the months leading up to the vote, both sides campaigned heavily throughout the island nation, covering buildings and lampposts with signs, handing out pamphlets in crowded streets and wearing buttons declaring their position. 

Anthony Jones, a college sophomore and Fairfax native, went with college students from Students for Life of America to assist the country’s pro-lifers — the “Love Both” campaign. Friends and fellow parishioners from St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax helped sponsor his mission.

“We were with a lot of the pro-lifers who had been working to protect the right to life of the unborn for the last year in preparation for this referendum,” Jones said. “What they had been doing was going door to door, making phone calls, interacting with people however they could to try to convince them of the right to life, and that’s what we jumped in on at the last second.”

The pro-lifers were crushed when the results came out the day after the vote — a landslide victory for the pro-choice side.

“Everyone was so heartbroken — they had given up their jobs, paused their education to devote all their energy to this really important referendum and they lost a huge battle,” said Jones. “But they also realized that it was just a battle in the war that had already been won by Christ. They were hopeful for the future and determined to keep fighting.”

The day before the vote, Jones made a call to a woman who still was undecided. He listened as she said that her first child was diagnosed with the fetal defect spina bifida, and that she chose to abort. 

“She was explaining the pain and suffering that that abortion had on her, even to this day, and at the same time she was still conflicted,” said Jones. “But at the end of that conversation she said, ‘Actually I’m going to vote no tomorrow.’

“That stood out (to me) as important and beautiful. God was working for us as we were there,” said Jones. “Even though the results were a loss for life, everyone involved was able to touch people’s hearts and plant seeds that the Holy Spirit will continue to grow as abortion become more prevalent in the country.”

Michael Kelly from Catholic News Service contributed to this article. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018

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