Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Sunday 5 February 2023 Dublin: -3°C
PA Archive/Press Association Images
# Abortion stance
Paschal Donohoe says there will be a referendum on abortion in the coming years
The new Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform said it was his personal view the issue would be put to the people.

Updated 16.30

THE NEWLY APPOINTED Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe has said there will be a referendum on abortion.

The Fine Gael Minister told Newstalk Breakfast today that it was his personal view that following the process of the Citizens’ Assembly considering the issue, as is promised in the programme for government, it will put to the people.

“There will be a referendum in relation to that matter in the coming years.”

He mentioned how this was also the case with the marriage equality referendum, which also followed the same process.

In the new programme for government, the Citizens’ Assembly is promised to be set up within six months. The group will not include any politicians and members will make recommendations to the Dáil on “a limited number of key issues” including the Eighth Amendment.

There is no mention in the programme on a referendum on abortion.

UN hearing 

Despite the announcement of a citizens’ assembly, which will make recommendations to the Dáil about the current abortion laws, Ireland received a hammering over the Eighth Amendment at a UN hearing yesterday.

Following a significant number of queries from members states about the controversial constitutional addition, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald acknowledged that the current laws on abortion do not cover cases of fatal foetal abnormalities, cases where a woman is pregnant as a result of rape and where the health of a woman is of concern.

She also admitted that a full response to the human rights committee would not be furnished for more than two years. She concluded her speech by confirming that Ireland would prepare a voluntary report on all the issues, including abortion, until late 2018 or early 2019.

Speaking in Geneva at the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), she said:

“The issue of abortion continues to be a very live issue in Ireland and we recognise the need for our discourse to be respectful of differing views.

shutterstock_135308138 Shutterstock / Martin Good Shutterstock / Martin Good / Martin Good

The pressure on the new government from its peers comes as a major new study found that such restrictive regimes are not effective in reducing the number of terminations per country.

Global rate of illegal abortions estimated as high as legal abortions

The new global estimates of abortion from the World Health Organisation and the Guttmacher Institute were published in The Lancet today.

It shows that in countries where abortion is strongly legally restricted – and often performed under unsafe conditions – the incidence of abortion is estimated to be as high as in countries where it is legal.

Ireland and Malta were the only two European countries listed in the category  of countries where abortion is strongly legally restricted.

However, it is difficult to ascertain an accurate figure of the number of Irish women having abortions even when using UK statistics. Some women who travel do not give an Irish address, while more go to other countries including the Netherlands.

The report also shows that abortion rates are at an all-time low in developed countries where the service is legal.

The lead author of the survey, Dr Gilda Sedgh, explains this:

The continued fall in abortion rates is largely due to the increased use of modern contraception, that has given women greater control over the timing and number of children they want

Developed countries

As a developed nation, Ireland faced scrutiny because of its failure to update legislation to ensure access to abortion services for all women.

Nine countries submitted advance questions to the Justice Minister ahead of yesterday’s human rights review. Six of these questioned Ireland’s status on access to abortion.

Germany and Sweden asked direct questions on what will be done at a constitutional level by the new government.

The UK also asked how the human rights issue would be managed in the parliamentary committee system. Fitzgerald answered the question:

That’s an issue to be considered by the Oireachtas itself now that a new government is in place and I am sure members will appreciate that I can’t pre-empt how the national parliament will approach this question.

‘Countries like Canada and Denmark in no position to lecture Ireland’

The Pro Life Campaign said it is “not at all surprised” by the countries that pressed Ireland to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Speaking in Geneva after the hearing deputy chairperson Cora Sherlock said:

Far from being embarrassed, we should be challenging some of these countries over their appalling record when it comes to defending human life.

Calls on Government to clarify their plans

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) is asking the government to clarify how it intends to update Ireland’s current abortion laws so that they comply with human rights standards.

IFPA chief executive Niall Behan said:

The stark criticism by the UN member states is no surprise and echoes what the IFPA hears every day from clients of our counselling services: Ireland’s abortion laws are harming women’s health.

29/3/2016. Abortion Campaigns Sam Boal / 'My Body, My Rights' protest in March, supported by Amnesty International Sam Boal / /

Amnesty International Ireland has said it hopes the UN recommendations persuade the new government to act urgently.

Executive director Colm O’Gorman said that it is “beyond question that the Eighth Amendment has to be repealed”.

He also added:

The Citizens’ Assembly promised by the new government on this is a welcome step but only if begun immediately and in good faith. It must not be a delaying tactic.

Additional reporting Christina Finn

Read: We’ve been promised for referendums – but not one on abortion

Read: Over 177,00 women have left Ireland for abortions since 1971

Your Voice
Readers Comments