The country that just legalised gay marriage still don't allow women to have abortions.

I hate to rain on the marriage equality parade, but Irish society is not one to be celebrated yet.

From the rainbow highlighting the Liffey to scenes of exhalation and joy, the passing of the marriage equality referendum in Ireland on Saturday was something to be proud of.

This tiny country has taken a momentous step forward. And it’s a step  Australians wish they could follow.

It was heralded with delight.

“A kinder, more accepting Ireland has awoken.”

“It has reshaped forever the republic in which we live.”

“A turning point. The future bright and open.”

All of this is true. Ireland has taken a huge leap forward. At the same time however, the country is just as oppressive and just as brutal for women as it has always been.

Not enough people know that Ireland is a country where the government retains control over women’s bodies; where a woman’s rights to her own body are dictated by legislation.

To see social media reactions from the referendum, see below. Post continues after gallery.

My Dublin born mother, her two sisters, and their daughters, my ten female cousins – strong, happy women – are constricted by a law which says they have no right to abortion unless there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother.

It is not even legal to have an abortion in the case of lethal foetal abnormality in the Catholic country that everyone has been celebrating over the weekend.

An Irish senator proposes to her partner live on air after the Irish vote comes down as Yes. Post continues after video.

The law in the Republic of Ireland says that even women who are raped or women who are victims of incest can access safe abortions.

The last attempt to change abortion law in Ireland was in 2002. It proposed removing the threat of suicide as grounds for legal abortion, but was defeated. It was one of five attempts to change the law in the last 30 years.


Just last year two prominent cases showed that Ireland is still a long way from change.

The first was a suicidal rape victim who was denied an abortion by a medical panel. After she attempted to starve herself, the 25-year-old was forced to give birth via caesarean at 25 weeks and her baby was adopted out. Catholic Bishop Kevin Doran said at the time the woman, an immigrant to Ireland, should have been forcefully kept pregnant for longer, for the health of the child.

Related: She’s only 18 years old. And if she was your daughter, you’d be outraged too.

In December, a brain dead pregnant woman kept on life support by doctors against the wishes of her family for almost a month while legal experts and the Church battled it out as to whether they would be breaking abortion laws by switching off her life support.

Will this be the impetus for change?

Commentators have said that the resounding ‘Yes’ vote to marriage equality was made possible by the declining influence of the Catholic Church in Irish society after a series of sex abuse cases (much like in Australia) came to light.

So you have to remain hopeful that the same could happen for abortion rights. Right?

Diarmaid Ferriter, historian and lecturer in modern Irish history at University College Dublin, told AFP the Catholic Church in Ireland is a much-weakened institution.

“There are still a lot of people who take their religion seriously but I think the idea of the Church as arbiters of morality, sexuality and issues around marriage is not what it was,” he added.

It was 22 years between decriminalised homosexuality and recognising the right of gay marriage. For the sake of the women growing up in Ireland today. For the sake of my cousins and their daughters, let’s hope change for women comes before the next 22 years go by.

Related links:

A very, very different kind of abortion story.

“I owe my life to my mother’s abortion.”

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