Your Next Big Trip

Travel for Change: Meet the Irish Abroad Travelling Home to Vote

Edit: If you still need funding to get home to vote YES, click here.

Usually the posts you read on this site will inspire you to explore, see new places and travel somewhere far away. But we all know that travel is always glamorous, and isn’t always for fun. This post is also unusual for my site because for the first time ever, I am writing about my home country of Ireland and why people are heading #HomeToVote.

Right now, there is a movement happening across Ireland and beyond. This movement begins with the women who are forced to travel from Ireland for abortions, and hopefully will end with those travelling home to put things right.

Did you know that 9 women and girls travel from Ireland to the UK every day to access abortion services? And that they could be imprisoned for up to 14 years for doing so?


How did we get to this?

In 1983, the 8th Amendment was added to the Irish Constitution, which stated that the life of the unborn has equal status to that of a pregnant woman. What this essentially did was outlaw abortion in all circumstances.

In 1986, the case of a 14 year old, pregnant through rape led to the public voting to include the 13th and 14th amendments to the constitution- one allowing women to travel for abortions, the other allowing women to access information about abortion, previously banned within the State.

Unfortunately, however, the 13th amendment still has not been legislated for, leading to subsequent cases like that of Ms. Y- an asylum seeker, pregnant through rape in her home country, who was forced to remain pregnant while suicidal and on hunger strike because it was deemed that her asylum seeker status did not allow her to travel outside of the State. Another pregnant woman’s dead body was kept temporarily alive while her family debated in court for the right to switch of her life support. Others were denied cancer treatment. Many more died.

While legislation now allows for abortion in extremely limited circumstances such as if there is immediate danger to a woman’s life (note: life, not health) or if a woman is suicidal (and deemed so by a panel of “experts”). As a result, women who need abortions as a result of fatal feotal abnormality, disability, rape, incest, inability to cope and the multitude of other reasons, are currently prevented from doing so.

So why are people going home to vote?

To vote in an Irish referendum you must be present at your home polling station. As a result, thousands of Irish abroad (like me!) find themselves without a vote unless they can make the journey home. You would think that would stop most people. But the Irish yes campaigners aren’t most people! While I’m still sitting here in Dar es Salaam trying to get people to #BeMyYes, others have taken matters into their own hands and are actually travelling home to vote!

#HomeToVote: 2016- present

The #HomeToVote movement began in the 2016 referendum for marriage equality, although reports suggest that the response this time is even bigger! My favourite meme during that referendum equated the Home to Vote crowd with that moment in Lord of the Rings when you think the good guys have lost but then a whole other army appears on the horizon to help.

Well that is exactly what’s happening right now!

People are travelling by plane, train, bus, maybe even on foot to get home to vote YES!

Source: Eoin Byrne Twitter

Then there are those who were organised and planned well in advance!

I’m currently travelling from London to go home to vote. Actually, I went on a holiday to Bali and planned the whole trip around being back in Ireland for May 25th. I live in London so I have access to full healthcare and we need the same for all women in Ireland. It breaks my heart that I’ve, more than likely, been on a plane with a woman secretly travelling to England for an abortion on her own and that Ireland has made her feel like a criminal. I’m making my way home to vote because every vote matters and I want to make a difference.

-Anne O’ Riordan

In a huge stroke of solidarity, Students’ Unions in UK Universities have offered bursaries to Irish students to travel home to vote yes. One such student is Lucy Mulvaney:

I am voting yes: Because the 8th amendment is a clear and obvious violation of personal rights and liberties. Because an average of nine women daily are forced to make the trip to England. Because abortions will still happen in the case of a no vote, they will just remain unregulated, underground and dangerous. Because being forced to endure 9 months of pregnancy and labour in cases of FFA or rape is not okay. Because you don’t have to agree with abortion to think that all of the above are unacceptable in modern Ireland. Because I want my mother, sisters, friends, and all of the women of Ireland to have autonomy over their own bodies.  

Ause, a fellow East African resident, is heading back to Clonmel, Co. Tipperary for 36 hours and will be back in Nairobi for work on Sunday night! When I asked why he was travelling so far, this is what he had to say:

Honestly, I’m coming home for a lot of reasons. Here’s a few:

 -because the three thousand, two hundred and sixty-five women who traveled to the UK in 2016 is three thousand, two hundred and sixty-five women too many. 

– because I don’t want to look at my sister, or my cousin, or my best friend, or my future daughter, and worry that she has to break the law in order to access an abortion. 

– because we don’t even know the statistics for the amount women who put their lives at risk every year through self-induced abortions

– because generations from now, when this ridiculous debate is laughed at, they’ll look to the unity that we showed at this time – all of us. Those who are poor, those who are rich, those who are men and those who are women, those who are educated, those who aren’t, those who are loud and those who are quiet, ALL OF US. They’ll say that we all stood together to finally eradicate a disgusting, backwards law and take control of our own bodies. We finally did away with the religious guilt and shame that has been hanging over our country for centuries. We finally drew a line in the sand and said enough is enough. The time is now.

-Ause Abdelhaq-Braike

Then there’s Abroad for Yes- my favourite Facebook group ever! Ordinary people are literally paying for other people’s flights to vote yes! I contributed to two people who are already on their way by now and there are hundreds more getting fully funded as the night goes on. If you are still in need of funding, please click here.

While most people getting funded on Abroad for Yes are coming from the UK and Europe, some, like Conor, have travelled much further.

I am currently a 3rd year Business and Law student in UCD but I am on exchange in Sydney, Australia. I was angered, frustrated and anxious watching the 8th amendment debate happening online whilst I was overseas. I felt so helpless to the women of Ireland when they needed my support. Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of Abroad For Yes, I have spent 38 hours travelling from UNSW, Sydney to GlengarriffCo.Cork via Abu Dhabi, London and Dublin. My hope is that on Friday, Ireland will show compassion towards Irish women who need to access abortions. I am so energised and inspired by all the hard work of the TogetherForYes team! Deciding to come home for yes was essential to me, to stop the shaming and stigma attached to Irish women who have travelled to access abortion. I will be voting Yes on Friday, in my little village in West Cork, to give women the basic human right they should not have to fight for.

-Conor Galvin

Unfortunately I can’t be #HomeToVote. Ironically, I returned to Ireland for a medical procedure less than a month ago. Sitting in agony on a plane back to Tanzania, cursing the fact that I couldn’t get the procedure done safely here, I kept thinking of all the women who have made similar journeys back to Ireland. The difference is, if my health was endangered by pregnancy in Tanzania or most other countries, my pregnancy would be terminated. People often compare Ireland’s healthcare system to that of a developing country. But that is an insult to the country I reside in, because I know that here I would be treated with more compassion than I would at home in Ireland. While unrestricted abortion isn’t legal in Tanzania, aftercare is, and women are not threatened with jail time for having one.

When I ask those of you in Ireland to please, BE MY YES, I am asking not just for myself, but for all women back home, and women here in Tanzania and elsewhere that are denied abortions.

Because you have the chance in Ireland to do something that women in other countries do not.

You have the chance to vote to save lives. To show compassion. To make the lives of 9+ women a day a little bit easier. You don’t have to agree with abortion to vote Yes. You just have to agree that they shouldn’t be punished for it, whatever their circumstances.

BE MY YES! #Repealthe8th

I’ll leave you with this just, cause.

3 thoughts on “Travel for Change: Meet the Irish Abroad Travelling Home to Vote

  1. Rowena

    This is fantastic! I love that people are going home for the vote and am optimistic that the result will be as it’s currently trending… toward repeal!

  2. Viola

    I have tears in my eyes. This is incredible! All the people traveling so far to vote YES. These are the actions that make me believe there is still hope in humanity! Best wishes Ireland!!