Article 40.3.3, inserted following the Eighth Amendment referendum in 1983, provides that: “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.”
Haven’t we just cleared that up?
Oh. When do we want it?
“In the 30 years since the passing of the 8th Amendment at least 150,000 women have gone overseas for abortions; at least three women have died because they were denied abortions here; and we now have the most restrictive abortion legislation imaginable – which does not even allow abortion on grounds of rape or incest, fatal foetal abnormality, or inevitable miscarriage. Women whose lives are threatened by the risk of suicide due to unwanted pregnancy face so many obstacles that they will probably not even ask for an abortion here.
The perverse logic of Art. 40.3.3, interpreted by the Supreme Court in 1992 and now enshrined in James Reilly’s Act [Protection of Life During Pregnancy], means medical conditions due to pregnancy that are not in themselves life-threatening (eg inevitable miscarriage – like Savita Halappanavar) must be allowed become life-threatening before it is legal to terminate a pregnancy.
Reilly’s Act also says that ‘unborn human life’ should be protected by law from the moment of implantation until delivery, supposedly because 40.3.3 requires it. This effectively rules out fatal foetal abnormality, and inevitable miscarriage, as grounds for abortion. We disagree with Reilly, as do a range of legal experts. Alan Shatter and Alex White claim to support legislation to allow abortion on such grounds: they should put a Bill through the Dáil and see if the Supreme Court says it’s unconstitutional under 40.3.3. Must we have another death before the Dáil acts to protect women’s lives?”
Joan Collins TD
“Even if [Minister for Health James Reilly] Reilly’s Act was less restrictive, 40.3.3 and the X Case ruling would only allow abortion if a woman’s life is at risk due to pregnancy. It is unacceptable that the Constitution should make a distinction between a woman’s health and her life, or ban abortion on other grounds – including a woman’s choice – and force women overseas for abortions. Art. 40.3.3 must be repealed. We call on Alan Shatter and Alex White to also call for the repeal of 40.3.3.
There are many in Ireland who think that it should be left to a woman to decide whether or not to terminate a pregnancy, without legal or medical interference. We agree with that. But we also recognise that many others think abortion should only be available if pregnancy puts a woman’s health at risk, or in cases of rape, incest, or fatal foetal abnormality. None of these changes can be made while 40.3.3 is in the Constitution. We think that people with different views can all work together by making repeal of 40.3.3 the focus of our campaigning over the coming months and years.”
Clare Daly TD
Thanks Brendan Young
(Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland)