- Ireland has firmly pulled itself into the 21st century by voting overwhelmingly to repeal the constitutional block on abortions. In a referendum, the Irish voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment that practically prohibits abortions.
- The amendment, introduced in 1983 to strengthen an older law outlawing abortions, grants an unborn child and the woman carrying it an equal right to life.
- Abortions in Ireland have been only permitted when the life of the woman is at risk, including from suicide.
- Amendments to the law permit travel for such purposes as well as information on abortion processes available overseas.
- Alarmingly, there were still no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, or when the foetus had a fatal abnormality. In 2016 the United Nations asked Ireland to relax its laws around abortion after a woman’s highly publicised experience of trauma travelling to England to terminate her pregnancy because of fatal foetal abnormalities.
- The Irish government has indicated that it will now pass laws giving women the right to terminate pregnancies up to 12 weeks.
- Abortions will be permitted between 12 and 24 weeks when there are fatal foetal abnormalities or risk to the life of the mother or serious harm to her.
- Beyond 24 weeks, abortions would be permitted when there are fatal abnormalities.
- Ireland has been fiercely divided over abortion despite making progress to separate Church and State and adopting more open social attitudes.
- It legalised same-sex marriage in 2015 and elected the first openly gay Prime Minister last year. PM has been in favour of the repeal, describing it as a ‘quiet revolution’.
- Religion is a powerful force in people’s lives but antediluvian ideas have no place in modern-day governance. The referendum is a giant step in the right direction.