Ireland: Tension over the Abortion Referendum

17/05/2018

On May 25 a referendum on abortion will be held in Ireland. Abortion has always been illegal in Ireland in both Northern Ireland, (part of the UK) and the independent state of Southern Ireland. Its prohibition was added to the Constitution in 1983, with the 8th Amendment, which aims to protect “the right to life of the unborn child“. Any woman who undergoes an abortion, as well as any individual who helps her obtain access to abortion faces a potential penalty of 14 years in prison. Since 2013, abortion is only allowed when the mother’s life is at risk. This is the 6th referendum in 35 years on this subject. This time the referendum deals with the repeal of Article 40.3.3, known as the 8th Amendment of the Constitution. The current law does not explicitly prohibit abortion: it provides an equal right to life for the unborn child and the mother. For the past two weeks, the debate has been raging in Ireland, with the pros and cons confronting each other against a backdrop of strong international pressure. If the majority votes in favor of the referendum, the government intends to draft a law to allow abortion in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy and beyond if the mother’s life is at risk, or if the fetus is at risk of dying before birth or shortly after. The obvious risk is that political convictions will predominate without ever allowing a genuine debate. Moreover, the crucial issue is still being ignored: that of preventing abortion and supporting women faced with unexpected pregnancies.]]>

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