Ireland’s referendum Friday represented more than a vote on whether to end the country’s strict abortion ban. It was a battle for the very soul of a traditionally conservative Roman Catholic country that has seen a wave of liberalization in recent years. The country’s leaders support a “yes,” an outcome that would repeal a 1983 constitutional amendment requiring authorities to treat a fetus and its mother as equals under the law.
They say it’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to liberalize some of Europe’s strictest abortion rules. It’s also a key indicator of Ireland’s trajectory, three years after the country voted to allow same-sex marriages and a year after it elected a gay prime minister.