Voters in Ireland headed to the polls on Friday to decide whether the country should repeal its restrictive abortion laws. Among those casting their ballots were thousands of Irish citizens living in other parts of the world who traveled back to Ireland for the landmark vote.
They chronicled their journeys on social media using the hashtag #HomeToVote, sharing thousands of powerful and poignant stories.
Most of those using the hashtag were planning to vote “yes” to repeal the eighth amendment ― Ireland’s near-total ban on abortion that only makes exceptions to save the life of the mother.
Some people covered relatively short distances from England, Scotland and parts of Europe, while others crossed oceans and continents to journey from places like Los Angeles, Tokyo and Sao Paulo.
The eighth amendment has been in place since 1983, granting fetuses and pregnant women the same rights. The campaign to repeal the amendment has been ongoing since its inception. This latest effort came about after 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar died from a septic miscarriage in 2012 after being denied an abortion at a Galway hospital.
A recent survey showed 56 percent of Irish voters said they were planning to vote “yes” to repeal the amendment, but the gap has steadily narrowed in recent weeks, perhaps due to a “no” campaign funded in part by American anti-abortion groups.
Some of those traveling back to Ireland to vote “yes” recalled undertaking trips in the other direction to seek reproductive services in other countries.
#hometovote celebrating feels like a response to all the silent, secret journeys that went the other way,” one Twitter user wrote.
Some people tweeted donation offers to pay for flights, while others said they had received help from complete strangers so they could travel home. Many also offered travelers free transport from the airport.
A number of people used the opportunity to surprise friends and family back home.
As of midday on Friday, the voter turnout was higher than it was at the same time period during Ireland’s same-sex marriage referendum and its most recent general election, BBC reported. The polls are scheduled to close at 10 p.m. local time.