Voters in Ireland pave way for abortion on demand

IMAGE: CNS photo/Alex Fraser, Reuters

By Michael Kelly

DUBLIN (CNS) — Voters in Ireland have opted
to remove the right to life of the unborn from the country’s constitution,
paving the way for abortion on demand up to 12 weeks.

With votes counted from 30 of Ireland’s 40 constituencies,
results from the nationwide referendum showed that 67.3 percent of citizens
opted to remove the Eighth Amendment from the constitution, while 32.7 percent
voted to retain it. Turnout was 64.5 percent.

Voters inserted the original amendment in
the constitution in 1983 by a margin of 2-1, and it “acknowledges the
right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of
the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by
its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

That text will now be deleted and replaced
with an article stating that “provision may be made by law for the
regulation of termination of pregnancy.”

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said he
would introduce legislation that would allow abortion on demand up to 12 weeks,
up to 24 weeks on unspecified grounds for the health of the mother, and up to
birth where the child is diagnosed with a life-limiting condition that means he
or she may not live long after birth.

An exit poll conducted by the Ireland’s
national broadcaster RTE asked voters what motivated them to opt for either “yes”
or “no.” Among “yes” voters, the most important issues were
the right to choose (84 percent), the health or life of the woman (69 percent),
and pregnancy as a result of rape (52 percent).

Among “no” voters, they cited the
right to life of the unborn (76 percent), the right to live of those with Down
syndrome or other disabilities (36 percent), and religious views (28 percent).

John McGuirk, spokesman for Save the Eighth,
which campaigned for a “no” vote, described the outcome as “a
tragedy of historic proportions.”

“The Eighth Amendment did not create a
right to life for the unborn child — it merely acknowledged that such a right
exists, has always existed and will always exist,” he said, insisting that
“a wrong does not become right simply because a majority support it.”

“We are so proud of all of those who
stood with us in this campaign — our supporters, our donors, our families and
our loved ones,” he said. “This campaign took a huge personal toll on
all of us who were involved, and we have been so grateful for their support.”

Insisting that pro-life campaigners will
continue their efforts, McGuirk told Catholic News Service: “Shortly,
legislation will be introduced that will allow babies to be killed in our
country. We will oppose that legislation. If and when abortion clinics are
opened in Ireland, because of the inability of the government to keep their
promise about a (general-practitioner-led health) service, we will oppose that
as well.

“Abortion was wrong yesterday. It
remains wrong today. The constitution has changed, but the facts have not,”
he said.

Ruth Cullen of the LoveBoth campaign
insisted that the organization will try to ensure that the Irish prime minister,
or Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, is true to his pledge that the government will work
to ensure that abortions are rare.

“We will hold the Taoiseach to his
promise that repeal would only lead to abortion in very restrictive
circumstances. He gave his word on this, now he must deliver on it. No doubt
many people voted for repeal based on the Taoiseach’s promises in this regard,”
she said.

Commenting on the campaign, Cullen said: “We
are immensely proud and grateful to all our volunteers throughout the country
who worked tirelessly over recent months to ensure unborn babies would not be
deprived of legal protections.

“The campaign to protect unborn babies
will endure,” she said.

Eamonn Conway, a theologian at Mary
Immaculate College in Limerick, told Catholic News Service he was “greatly
saddened” by the result. However, he pointed out that “the truth is
that the Irish Constitution merely recognized the right to life that is antecedent to all law. This most fundamental of all human
rights is not extinguished or diminished because our constitution no longer
acknowledges it. What is diminished is our constitution,” he said.

Conway said he believes “the task
facing the Catholic Church now is to ensure that it makes every effort to accompany
with the healing compassion of Christ everyone caught up in the tragic
circumstances that surround an abortion … from grieving parents to medical

Archbishop Eamon Martin, primate of
All-Ireland, was expected to address the referendum outcome during a homily at
the country’s national Marian shrine at Knock, County Mayo, May 27.

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