In 1983, Ailbhe Smyth was spat at and denounced as a “baby murderer” in the street as she campaigned for Irish women to have the right to abortion. Thirty-five years later, the activist is still at the heart of Ireland’s abortion battle, fighting for her daughter, granddaughter and other women to get control over their bodies. This time, she is hopeful that the country’s prohibition of abortion, even in cases of rape or fatal foetal abnormality, which is enshrined in the constitution, may be overturned in a referendum expected to be held on 25 May.
The Irish government was expected to confirm the date and wording of the referendum on the eighth amendment – the clause in the constitution that gives foetuses and women equal right to life – on Tuesday, but the move has been delayed by a forthcoming Supreme Court judgement that has repercussions for the rights of an unborn child.
If the vote is in favour of repeal, the government is expected to introduce legislation permitting unrestricted abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Smyth, who leads the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, said: “We are absolutely determined to win this campaign, but we have learned that you should never try to second-guess the people in a referendum.