'For choice, for progress, for health': woman flies home from Vancouver to vote in Irish abortion referendum

Michelle Sweeney has lived in Vancouver for the past year and drained her savings account for a last minute ticket home to Ireland on the afternoon of May 22.

'It would’ve always haunted me had I not gone home'

Street art in Ireland supporting the repeal of the Eighth Amendment which bans abortion in the country. (Michelle Sweeny/Submitted)

Irish citizens from around the world have been flying back to participate in a referendum which could repeal the ban on abortion in the country.

The Eighth Amendment, passed in 1983, gave "the unborn" and mothers an equal right to life, making abortions illegal except under the most dire circumstances.

Michelle Sweeney has lived in Vancouver for the past year and drained her savings account for a last minute ticket home to Ireland on the afternoon of May 22.

Though her visa runs out in October, she flew back home to vote Yes for repeal because she didn't want to miss the chance to help change the rights of women in Ireland.

"I felt like I just would've regretted not having had a say in this referendum. It would've always haunted me had I not gone home," Sweeney told On The Coast guest host Angela Sterritt.

'Abortion's not black and white'

Sweeney, who is 25 years old, was adopted and said for a long time she didn't understand why someone would abort a pregnancy instead of carrying to term and giving the child to a new family.

"But I was very ignorant and miseducated … abortion's not black and white. It's not an easy thing for anyone to go through.

"It's a very hard choice for anyone to make, and I think we should respect a woman's choice and not police what she does with her body."

While she was out canvassing Thursday, she was overjoyed to see men, women and children wearing sweaters and buttons advertising their support to repeal the law.

Michelle Sweeney holds a sign to support the reapeal of Ireland's Eighth Amendment. She flew home from Vancouver to vote Yes in the national referendum. (Michelle Sweeney)

"It just felt like we were all connected through this one thing. It does feel like something historical is happening for the women in Ireland."

She described the mood Friday as electric and said she had struck up an excited conversation with two girls she noticed wearing "Repeal" T-shirts in the airport the day before.

"Don't have to know people to stand up with them. There's such a sense of unity in this," she said.

She said she feels the change is overdue and will be voting a firm yes "for choice, for progress, for health, for the women of Ireland who have been oppressed and silenced for too long."

The vote to repeal Irelands Eighth Amendment Friday will determine whether abortion will remain illegal. (Peter Morrison/Associated Press)

"I want to say goodbye to the backwards Ireland. I don't want to be the one per cent of the Europeans that are denied abortion rights."

Sweeney will be in the air flying back to Canada Saturday while the results are coming in.

To hear the full interview listen to media below:

Though her Visa runs out in October, she flew back home to vote Yes for repeal because she didn't want to miss the chance to help change the rights of women in Ireland. 7:28

With files from On The Coast