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New poll says Irish public want abortion laws to change... but only in certain cases

According to the Irish Times/Ipsos Mori poll, most people don’t favour unrestricted access to abortion, however.

THE IRISH PUBLIC favours a change to the current abortion laws but differs significantly from the recommendations made by the Citizens’ Assembly on the matter, according to a new poll.

The poll, by the Irish Times/Ipsos Mori, says an overwhelming majority feel that abortion should be legal on grounds such as pregnancy as a result of rape or when a serious risk is posed to the health of the woman.

However, where the Citizens’ Assembly agreed by a margin of 64% that terminations should be allowed without restriction as to reasons, 67% of those polled here said that abortion should not be allowed “under any circumstances” or be “available on request”.

Reacting today, the Abortion Rights Campaign said that the poll showed “huge public support” for changes to our abortion laws while the Pro Life Campaign hailed “some real positives” in the poll.

Grounds for abortion

Respondents were asked under what grounds abortion should be permitted in Ireland. In most cases, between 6% and 17% of those surveyed chose not to respond.

In cases where the pregnancy posed a serious risk to the health of the woman, 82% said that abortion should be legal, while 13% disagreed.

In cases where it posed a serious risk to the mental health of the women, 72% believe that abortion should be permitted, while 19% said it shouldn’t.

When the pregnancy occurs as a result of rape, over three in four (76%) say that abortion should be legal while 16% said that it should remain illegal.

Where the child has a fatal foetal abnormality that is likely to result in death before or shortly after birth, two-thirds (67%) advocated that abortion be permitted while 21% of people said it shouldn’t.

On these counts, the poll is broadly in line with the Citizens’ Assembly.

In cases of fatal foetal abnormality, the Assembly recommended by a margin of 89% that abortion be permitted. Where the woman’s life is in danger, 99% recommended abortion be legal.

Disagreement

This poll shows that the public disagrees with the Citizens’ Assembly in cases such as abortion for socio-economic reasons, and having no restriction on abortion.

Among the Assembly, 72% of members recommended that abortion be permitted for socio-economic reasons.

In this poll however, only 21% agreed with this. Over two-thirds (68%) said that abortion should not be legal in cases of not having the financial or family supports in place to raise a child.

Similarly, while 64% of the Citizens’ Assembly said abortion should be permitted without restriction as to reasons, only 23% of people in this poll concurred. In all, 67% of people said that abortion should not be “available on request”.

In situations where abortions would be legal, 73% of people said that they should be permitted up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

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Reaction

Reacting to the poll, the Abortion Rights Campaign said that having a debate between those who want to repeal the Eighth Amendment and those who oppose abortion in all circumstances does not do justice to “the real debate”.

Spokesperson Angela Coraccio said: “This is not reflective of the real debate happening in Irish society between those who think abortion should be legal in certain circumstances and those who think it should be legal in all circumstances where a woman chooses it. These are the kinds of debates we should be seeing.”

Coraccio also raised questions around how legalising abortion in the case of rape would work in practice.

She said: “Will rape victims have to face a panel of up to six doctors and psychiatrists, like suicidal women must currently do? Will they be forced to prove their rape in a court of law? Will they be questioned by gardaí before they are granted the healthcare they need?

As we heard time and again during the Citizens’ Assembly proceedings, rape clauses will just mean rape victims are forced to ‘prove’ themselves worthy of healthcare.

Ailbhe Smyth, from the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, urged the government to provide some leadership and convene its promised committee on the matter immediately.

“The public are tired of waiting for the Government to address this issue,” she said.

The Pro Life Campaign, meanwhile, said it is confident that polls showing support for abortion would “change quickly” in the event of a referendum.

Spokesperson Cora Sherlock said: “Taking a closer look, there are some real positives in today’s poll for the pro-life side.

The clear lesson from the Citizens’ Assembly is that once you start singling out certain unborn babies as unworthy of legal protection, then in effect you are saying that unborn human life in general has no intrinsic value.

Read: Citizens’ Assembly recommends abortion to be allowed without restrictions up to 12 weeks

Read: Rights groups hit out after Micheál Martin declines to say if he supports abortion in cases of rape

About the author:

Sean Murray

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