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Ireland, Enthusiastic About Gay Rights, Frets Over Abortion

Still, sexual education has improved from Ms. Donnelly’s time, when nuns taught her class: “If a lad sat on your lap, you’d put a newspaper on your lap. That was the contraception of the day.”

In recent years, Ireland has seen some of the biggest turnarounds in public opinion in the Western world. In 1992, for example, while homosexuality was still considered a crime in the country, participants in a gay pride parade in Cork wore masks so as not to embarrass relatives. In 2018, Ireland has a gay prime minister, same-sex marriage is allowed and some of the world’s most progressive bills concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are being put forward in Parliament.

Similarly, attitudes toward abortion shifted drastically after Savita Halappanavar died in 2012 of complications from a septic miscarriage. She had asked for a termination, but the hospital refused her request, initially judging that her life was not in danger. The baby was stillborn, and Ms. Halappanavar died a few days later.

Ireland, Enthusiastic About Gay Rights, Frets Over Abortion
Ireland, Enthusiastic About Gay Rights, Frets Over Abortion

For many voters, the referendum over abortion is, ultimately, a deeply private choice.

In 2015, after the same-sex marriage vote, “it was like Glastonbury; it was party central,” recalled Mr. Haddock. But this week, he said, “no matter who wins or loses, there’s not going to be a party.”

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