Taoiseach Enda Kenny has declared that he will give Fine Gael TDs a free vote on repeal of the Eighth Amendment following a constitutional convention on the matter to be held after the general election. This begs a simple question: why?
Whether Fine Gael likes it or not, repeal of the Eighth Amendment is a live issue in this election; people of all opinions are raising it on the doorsteps, campaigns from both sides of the debate are in full swing, and the Greens and Labour have had the courage to put an actual policy in place.
One does not need a rarefied process of discussion with a small number of “the people” and elected representatives to know there is sufficient disagreement and momentum to justify a referendum on repeal; one simply needs to respond to the demands of the polity.
The last time Fine Gael established a convention to consider constitutional change it held referenda on two of the emerging proposals (marriage equality and presidential age), accepted three more, parked eight, rejected five, gave unclear responses to two, and ignored 20.
Given this track record, can the Taoiseach’s commitment to “considering” repeal of the Eighth Amendment be called a “policy”, not to mention an example of leadership?
Prof Fiona de Londras,
University of Birmingham
School of Law
Claire Cullen-Delsol and her husband Wayne with their stillborn daughter Alex
Further to calls for a repeal of the Eight Amendment.
Ellen Coyne, in the Ireland edition of The Times, reports:
Claire Cullen-Delsol, 31, a mother of two from Waterford city, had to wait over a month for her daughter’s heartbeat to stop naturally before she could end a pregnancy that had no medical chance of succeeding.
Ms Cullen-Delsol and her husband, Wayne, have an eight-year-old daughter and a 20-month-old son. In August, twenty weeks into her pregnancy, she was told that Alex, her second daughter, would not survive because of a chromosome disorder.
…Ms Cullen-Delsol said that travelling for an abortion seemed too traumatic, so her only choice was to wait until the baby died.
“During those five weeks I could still feel her moving inside me, and every week the movement would get less and less — she was dying inside me,” she said. “Sometimes when I couldn’t feel her moving I would drink something cold and then something hot, and then I might try loud music, and then I might jump around to see if she’d move, just to be sure.
“I would wake up every day and say, ‘Is it going to be today? Is today going to be the day she dies?’”
“…There were times when I’d have to leave the house to go shopping, because the kids needed to eat, and I might see a mother with a baby and just have to abandon the trolley and go home. It was absolute torture. There were days when I would have to call people for help. My daughter started begging her dad not to go to work, because she could hear me crying after he left.
She added: “One night I woke up, and there was a complete stillness unlike anything I could describe. There was no movement. I knew she was gone.”
A satirical swipe at Amnesty International by Youth Defence.
Destiny Herndon-DeLaRosa writes:
“When Amnesty International isn’t busy fighting for the rights of pimps and johns by trying to legalise prostitution, they’re working tirelessly to stop the very worst terrorists among us and the greatest threat to all human rights: babies. Little tiny babies. Specifically, by lobbying to legalize abortion, or “abertion” as they call it, in Ireland.”
“The 4th annual March for Choice will take place in Dublin on Saturday marking the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion.
This will be the last March for Choice before the next general election, so we must make it clear – securing our vote will mean making a commitment to Repeal the 8th amendment, so that we can take a step closer to securing free, safe and legal access to abortion in Ireland.”
The march will kick off at 2 pm in Dublin at the Garden of Remembrance (assembling from 1.30pm), and like last year, we are asking that you bring a wheelie case if possible to make the effort and sound of travel abundantly clear!
Ailbhe Smyth, top, and Dr Peadar O’Grady, from Doctors for Choice, this morning
Buswells Hotel, Dublin
Ailbhe Smyth and Dr Peadar O’Grady, and other members of a coalition of organisations and groups campaigning for a repeal of the eighth amendment, are holding a press conference this morning.
It follows calls by the UN recommending Ireland hold a referendum on abortion.
Ms Smyth said:
“It is beyond dispute that Ireland’s constitutional restriction on abortion puts the lives and health of women at risk. The Eighth Amendment imposes limits the options of doctors charged with women’s care. It creates a needlessly cruel verification process for those few women entitled under our laws to terminations. It leaves the vast majority of women in crisis pregnancies to fend for themselves by making the journey to England. These deficiencies have been identified time and time again, at home and at the UN. There is a range of opinion on what change should come, but we know that a majority of Irish people want to see change.”
“The message to our legislators could not be clearer. The time has come to act. We must begin the process towards putting repeal of the Eighth Amendment before the Irish people. We must begin the challenging conversation in parliament, in the Health Committee, and in policymaking as to what legal regime might come into effect in the event of repeal. A regime that places women, and their right to health and bodily integrity, at its centre. This process will be a political challenge. But it no longer a challenge our legislators can ignore. Addressing the question of the Eighth Amendment is their moral and political duty. The Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment will be an active part of this conversation in the weeks and months to come.”
A petition urging repeal of the eight amendment can be signed here
Rev Patrick Burke, centre, Anglican Rector Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny
Further to calls by the UN for Ireland to hold an abortion referendum.
Church of Ireland Rector Patrick Burke writes:
So the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is saying Ireland “must” hold a referendum on abortion. And since they want us to to repeal the Eighth Amendment to address the committee’s concern at our “highly restrictive legislation on abortion,” presumably that means they are saying we “must” vote Yes as well. Who knew the UN had so much power?
But wait! Their “must” is contained in a list of recommendations in a report; and a recommendation is something that can just as easily be rejected as accepted. So really this is less a “must” than a “this is what we think you should do” said in a hectoring tone accompanied by a frowning look and lot of finger-wagging.
That makes a lot more sense. After all, the last time I looked, the UN didn’t have the authority to dictate to member states how they manage their internal affairs; and certainly none of its multitude of committees doesn’t have that power. Therefore, the only thing we “must” do with this report and its recommendations is politely nod and smile, and then do as we ourselves see fit…