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Referendum on Eighth Amendment to be held next year, says new Irish PM

15 June 2017


A rally held in Dublin to celebrate the Eighth Amendment, which has saved at least 100,000 lives.

Activists are fighting to remove Ireland's protection for the unborn child. 

The newly-appointed Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, told the Dáil yesterday that health minister Simon Harris will make preparations for a referendum on Ireland's abortion laws. He told the Dáil yesterday Mr Harris will be "responsible for bringing forward legislation to allow for a referendum on Eighth Amendment in 2018".

The Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution protects the equal right to life of the mother and unborn child, and is estimated to have saved 100,000 lives

Watch our video on why the Eighth Amendment needs to be protected!

News management?

As Patrick Buckley, SPUC's officer in Ireland explains, this announcement comes after a week of news about abortion in Ireland. "We've seen a number of stories this week attempting to show that Ireland's pro-life laws are uncaring and out of touch. Now we have this announcement of a referendum to remove Ireland’s protection for unborn life. It really is an extraordinary coincidence, if that's what it is."

The first story to appear this week was of a girl deemed to be at risk of suicide who wanted an abortion was sectioned under the Mental Health Act because her treating psychiatrist said terminating the pregnancy "was not the solution". The case was before the courts last year, but was suddenly back in the news this week.

Numbers have actually fallen

The following day the 2016 abortion statistics revealed that the number of women from the Republic of Ireland who had abortions in Britain last year was 3,265 . This is a reduction of almost 200 from 3,451 women who gave Irish addresses at UK clinics in 2015 and continues the downward trend. Numbers travelling from Northern Ireland also fell, but the figures were used to push for abortion legalisation

Out of control UN Committee

Finally, for the second time in 12 months, a United Nations Committee has ruled that Ireland’s abortion laws have subjected a woman to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment on the basis that she was denied the right to terminate the life of her baby with life limiting conditions. The committee also instructed Ireland to legalise abortion and provide "effective, timely and accessible abortion services". "This type of action brings the UN and its agencies into disrepute," said Mr Buckley.  "It's yet another example of an out of control UN committee operating beyond its mandate and instructing nations to adhere to its own fabricated agenda rather than the Covenant it is supposed to be monitoring. There is no reference to abortion anywhere in the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) or for that matter, in any other legally binding international treaty."

First things first

Now, on his first official day as the leader of the Government, the new Taoiseach has announced that he will hold a referendum on abortion in the next year. Mr Varadkar previously stated that he does not agree with the conclusions of the Citizen's Assembly that abortion should be widely available,  but said: "I don’t agree with abortion on request but I also am very sure the Eighth Amendment is too restrictive...I think there are circumstances in which we should allow it that does means replacing the Eighth Amendment with something else."

News in brief:

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