The Union of Students in Ireland (USI), represents 374,000 students across Ireland, and welcomed the high youth turnout on the referendum on the Eighth Amendment that took place the 25th of May. The Eight amendment in the Irish constitution equates the life of a fetus with the life of a pregnant person and can result in a 14-year jail sentence for someone who procures an abortion. This was repealed by 66.4% of people voting Yes to removing it from the constitution.
USI predicted that turnout would be the largest youth voter turnout in the history of the state. USI ran large voter registration drives, trainings for volunteers, on-campus campaigning and canvassing of student accommodation, carpooling initiatives and more, all of which was supported by a comprehensive online campaign.
USI directly registered 26,979 new student voters in the lead up to this referendum and saw almost 125,000 new voters on the register. The majority of these being first time young voters, which cast of the myth of lazy stereotypes and that young people don’t engage in voting. ESU supported USI in their resolution at BM74 in Slovenia. The resolution states that ESU fully supports the “Students for Choice” campaign which advocates for reproductive rights access, and that abortion healthcare be made available to people across the island of Ireland.
USI goes on to state that this is an international issue. For instance, when international students studying in Ireland are affected when they realise they may not be able to access healthcare abroad due to visa restrictions. It also becomes an International issue when people from Ireland have to leave our shores for healthcare abroad”
ESU recognised that the UK 1967 Abortion Act was never extended to Northern Ireland and supports campaigns ran by USI and NUS-USI to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland. The conversation has gained momentum in Northern Ireland after such strong support was shown in the Republic of Ireland.