In 1983, the Irish electorate voted in favor of the 8th Amendment which reads, “The State 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 is practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.” This amendment protects the life of the unborn as well as the life of the mother. However, this Amendment may soon be repealed.
On March 8, which was also International Women’s Day, the Irish Parliament passed a referendum bill that would allow voters the opportunity to repeal the law and make abortion legal in May. If this referendum were passed, the 8th Amendment would be replaced with another referendum that states, “Provision may be made in law for regulation of termination of a pregnancy.” If passed, Ireland may proceed to legalize abortions without any restrictions.
The Irish Parliament also released a proposal stating that if the amendment is repealed, abortions would be made legal for any reason up to the 12th week of pregnancy, and abortions would be legal up to birth in cases of “fatal fetal abnormalities or risk to the mother’s life or health, both physical and mental.”
As pro-abortion activists fight to legalize abortion on demand, those against the amendment are fighting back. Two days after this referendum bill was passed, 100,000 of Irish citizens took to the streets across Ireland to protest. These protests were organized under the name “Save the 8th.”
In Dublin, crowds gathered from O’Connell Street to Marion Square for a peaceful protest, and many people spoke to encourage the crowds with messages of hope. Down Syndrome activist Charlie Fien told that audience that Ireland is one of the only countries in the world where a baby with Down Syndrome is safe inside its mother’s womb. He added that by “saving the 8th,” Irish citizens would be saving the lives of babies with Down Syndrome.
A physician, Dr. Judy Ceannt also spoke about how doctors have the duty to “do no harm,” citing the Hippocratic Oath. She said, “We are not meant to intentionally kill or harm any patient, least of all the most helpless, the unborn baby. The government has no right to impose this on us.”
The Catholic Church is against the referendum and is calling on Catholics to work actively against its passing. The bishops of Ireland made a statement to the Catholic people, saying, “We encourage you, therefore, as members of the human family, to work actively towards keeping the right to life in the constitution, in the name of equality, fairness and compassion for all.”
Father Oliver Rafferty, S.J., an Irish priest at Boston College, attributes the debate over the amendment to “the ambiguity in the wording of the amendment.” Father Rafferty expressed that the Irish suffer from “a loss of confidence in Catholicism.” Moreover, “it [the amendment] is a slap in the face to the place of Catholicism, institutional Catholicism, in Irish society. It is precisely that which has provoked all this.”
The people of Ireland will vote on this referendum on May 25, which will determine the legal status of abortion in Ireland.