The Choice and Feminist Societies at NUI Galway secured a significant victory in a referendum held last week. The referendum was to decide whether the Students Union should take a pro-choice stance. The exact proposition that was voted on was:
‘That NUIG Students Union adopt a pro-choice position, in support of the national campaign for full reproductive rights, which includes a woman’s right to abortion, whether elective or medically necessary. Furthermore, the SU should use every available measure to realise these rights on campus and nationally.’
This was a radical proposition that goes much further than the very limited legislation the government is expected to bring forward by the summer. And if we are to believe national polls, the referendum proposition went much further than public opinion. A poll in the Irish Times just last month found that only 37% of people fully supported a woman’s right to choose, although the poll found a large majority in favour of allowing abortion when a woman’s life/health are at risk or in cases of rape/incest or foetal abnormality.
Yet when the vote happened last Thursday, 70% of students who voted, supported the proposition. And this was with the highest voter turnout in years, possibly the highest ever in NUIG. Out of 3,596, votes, 2478 voted yes, 1118 voted no.
Obviously this reflects the fact that young people are generally more supportive of abortion rights. If the same vote was taken on a national basis the result would most likely be very different. But following on from success in referendums in Trinity College and DCU, it shows that things have changed drastically in this country.