2019 Photo Contest, Contemporary Issues, Stories, Nominee

Blessed Be the Fruit: Ireland's Struggle to Overturn Anti-Abortion Laws

Photographer

Olivia Harris

19 April, 2018

Graffiti artist Shirani Bolle paints a portrait of Savita Halappanavar, who died in 2012 after being refused an abortion, in Dublin, Ireland. 

On 25 May, Ireland voted by a large majority to overturn its abortion laws, which were among the most restrictive in the world. A 1983 referendum had resulted in an Eighth Amendment to the Irish constitution reinforcing a ban on terminations, even those resulting from rape and incest. Prior to the referendum, an estimated 3,000 women traveled to the UK annually for abortions. In 2012, the death of Savita Halappanavar from sepsis after doctors had denied her a termination, shocked Ireland and galvanized campaigners calling for an end to the ban. Her name became synonymous with the movement to repeal the Eighth Amendment. The campaign broadened, arguing that restrictions on women impact everyone in society, and that the support of men, too, was necessary to effect change. Campaigners used social media platforms to spread their message, and took the argument to the streets in the form of demonstrations and theatrical spectacle. Nearly two thirds of the Irish population turned out to participate in the referendum, with 66.4 percent voting to overturn the abortion prohibition. By the end of the year, the Irish president had signed a new bill into law, making abortion for any pregnancy less than 12 weeks available without cost.

About

Olivia Harris

Olivia Harris is a British documentary photographer and filmmaker, based in London, UK. She worked in the theatre, directing and producing productions, before devoting herself...

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