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Campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment planned for the autumn

The constitutional ban on abortion will come under scrutiny in the new Dáil term.

Pro choice protesters in Dublin last year
Pro choice protesters in Dublin last year
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

SEVERAL TDS AND abortion rights activists intend to campaign for a referendum that would repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution – which gives equal right to life to a mother and her unborn baby – in the autumn.

The amendment, passed by 66 to 33 per cent in a referendum in 1983, has provoked considerable controversy in Irish politics and society over the last three decades leading to the X Case judgement that permits abortion where the life of a mother is at risk including from suicide.

United Left TD Joan Collins said that from September onwards, the repeal of the amendment, also known as Article 40.3.3, will be raised by her and other TDs as part of an active campaign.

“We will be raising it in the Dáil, the need to repeal it, have a referendum on it, which needs to happen,” she told TheJournal.ie this week. Independent TD John Halligan also said repeal “needs to happen”.

Those working with various abortion rights groups have also indicated their intention to be part of a campaign but the government is unlikely to push for any referendum in the wake of the difficulties faced getting the X Case legislated for in recent weeks.

However, the Labour Party leader and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has acknowledged that the current legislation is not perfect and falls short in the case of women who are the victims of rape or incest.

“The people voted in 1983 to insert an equal right to life of a mother and her unborn child into our Constitution, and now, thirty years later, we giving effect to that right. Nothing more. But nothing less either,” he told the Dáil during the recent lengthy debate.

Article 40.3.3 reads as follows:

“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 far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

Recently released State papers have shown how the government was warned internally that the 1983 amendment could in fact allow a constitutional right to abortion as opposed to prohibiting it as campaigners for it had intended.

This transpired when the Supreme Court verdict in the case of X, a 14-year-old girl who was suicidal as a result being raped and becoming pregnant, gave an explicit right to a woman to have an abortion in circumstances where there is a real and substantial risk to her life, including risk of suicide.

Column: Here’s a win for all sides in the abortion debate

Read: Suicidal risk in X Case law ‘not consistent with Constitution’ – John Bruton

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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