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Facebook, Google to block ads leading up to the Ireland abortion referendum


On May 25th, citizens of Ireland will vote to repeal the 1983 constitutional amendment recognizing the equal right to life of the unborn and banning abortion in all cases except the health of the mother, including potential suicide.

The predominantly Catholic country is one of the few developed western nations with strict anti-abortion laws.

Supporters of the repeal say the wording of the amendment does not allow law makers to grant exceptions in cases of rape or other circumstances. They argue that only by repealing this amendment can reasonable laws be made.

Pro-life groups say that if repealed, “there will be no laws to protect the unborn at all”.

One campaign slogan reads “Love Both”, promoting compassion for the mother and child.

This week, Facebook announced they will block ads on this referendum that do not originate from advertisers in Ireland. This is one of the first actions taken by the social media giant since the Cambridge Analytica data scandal in March against possible election meddling. CEO Mark Zuckerberg is vowing to have tighter restrictions on data that can influence politics.

A day after Facebook’s announcement, Google said they would suspend all ads related to the referendum until after the vote. “Following our update around election integrity efforts globally, we have decided to pause all ads related to the Irish referendum on the Eighth Amendment,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

Opponents to the repeal spoke out against the websites decision, saying in a joint statement by Save The 8th, Pro Life Campaign and The Iona Institute, describe the ban as “an attempt to rig the referendum.” They claim that the internet was “the only platform available to the NO campaign to speak to voters directly,” adding that is “now being undermined.”

James Mary McInerney, a friar at the Church of Visitation in north Dublin, said that as a Catholic it was his obligation to protect life.

“We believe all life is sacred and comes from God and is a gift from God.” He addressed his congregation by saying he was aware of Catholics who will vote "yes" to repeal the amendment, “You can’t do that and remain a Catholic.”

On average, nine Irish women a day travel to the United Kingdom for abortion services, and four women a day smuggle abortion pills into the country. Current Irish law carries a sentence of up to 14 years in prison for terminating a pregnancy.

In Dublin, Ireland’s Capital and largest city, posters for and against the referendum line every major thoroughfare. Law makers approved the repeal amendment in March and say if the referendum passes, they will push legislation for abortion up to 12 weeks.

Opponents are trying to gain support with headlines reading “A License to Kill?”.

The latest polls give a slight advantage to the pro-choice, ‘repeal the 8th’ movement, and believe their success will depend on the youth turnout. The deadline for voter registration was Tuesday, May 8th. In Galway, a Pro-choice registration booth was set up on the iconic Shop St. hoping to inform and register progressive young voters.

In rural communities such as Doolin in County Clare, the pro-life anti-repeal sentiment holds a majority.

Some voters are opting to not vote at all. A 60-year-old taxi driver in Dublin, who is personally against abortion, says he will stay away from the vote because this is quote “a women’s issue, and women should be the ones voting.”

All constitutional amendments in Ireland are subject to an open vote by the citizens of the country.

Ireland has a population of roughly 4.7 million people. 78% of Irish citizens consider themselves Catholic according to the 2016 census.