Protesters across the world gathered Saturday in support of a movement to repeal Ireland’s incredibly strict abortion laws, in which the procedure is only legal if the mother’s life is at risk.
Abortion has long been a hot-button issue in the deeply Catholic country, which only repealed an absolute ban on the practice in 2013. But according to Reuters, passion rages on both sides of the debate, with anti-choice protesters holding large-turnout events of their own.
The government has been reluctant to address the issue for fear of alienating conservative voters, though the Roman Catholic Church has suffered a considerable loss of influence in recent years: In 2015, Ireland became the first country in the world to allow same-sex marriage by popular vote, a huge step for a place where homosexuality was a criminal offense until 1993.
Which is not to say that change will come to Ireland anytime soon. Katherine Zappone, the country’s Minister for Children, told Reuters that the referendum would be held no earlier than the end of next year.
“It’s my hope that what we’re doing today will ensure we get a referendum and the government moves as quickly as possible,” said Zappone, one of many wearing black sweatshirts with the word “Repeal” printed on the front, a reference to the eighth amendment of the constitution activists want repealed.
The hashtag #repealthe8th refers to the country’s eighth constitutional amendment, which was approved in 1983 and “acknowledges the right to life of the unborn.”
Next month, Prime Minister Enda Kenny will hold a citizens’ assembly to discuss whether a vote should be held to make abortion more widely available.
In August, an anonymous Irish woman live-tweeted her journey across the UK in pursuit of a legal abortion, a three-day ordeal that captured headlines around the world.