Ending The Hateful Eighth



From top: Pro choice activists take the ‘abortion pill bus’ in September, 2015; Dr Rory Hearne

Time to end Ireland’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’ hypocrisy on abortion, bring us into the 21st Century and Repeal the 8th Amendment.

Dr Rory Hearne writes:

Ten women (and some with their partners) will have to take a plane or ferry today and travel to England to have an abortion.

Last year over 3,700 women had to travel to the UK while over 150,000 have had to take a plane or boat to England or another country to have an abortion so that Catholic Ireland can remain guilt free while her traumatised women and their partners are forced to take the journey of shame to another country

This is the reality of hypocrisy Ireland.

Women and their partners and families face a personal crisis; whether it is a deeply tragic pregnancy such as fatal foetal abnormalities or becoming pregnant because of rape or a crisis pregnancy, this ‘great little nation’ deals with it by offering no support but to export the ‘problem’.

The Irish constitution and the failure of the state and governments to provide supportive legislation has turned our personal difficulties into a criminal act. It is the Eighth Amendment (Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution) which criminalises abortion as it gives the right to life to the foetus and places it on equal footing with that of the woman.

It is actually illegal for a woman in Ireland to have an abortion even if the foetus she is carrying will not survive outside the womb.

· In 2014, 140 Irish women travelled to the UK to have abortions for this reason.

It is also illegal for a woman who gets pregnant from rape to have an abortion in Ireland.

A total of 197 women and girls who went to rape crisis centres in 2013 were pregnant as a result of rape. One in four chose to have an abortion. They had to travel abroad for an abortion or take abortion pills illegally in Ireland.

Up until 2013, women had no legal right in Ireland to an abortion even if their life was at risk. We saw the result of this when Savita Halappanavar was allowed to die in October 2012. After the public outcry and protests the Government responded by enacting the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act but this retained the criminalisation of abortion on all but one ground (when a woman’s life is at risk). So women having an abortion or a doctor, or anyone helping a woman have an abortion outside of that circumstance faces a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

The right to travel abroad for abortion allows official Ireland to get on with business as usual irrespective of the mental, financial and sometimes physical suffering imposed on these women and their partners.

They add layer after layer of control and punishment because those who travel to have an abortion can’t talk about it – not even to closest friends and family – not even amongst themselves.

But thankfully this is changing. The silence is being broken The stigma of abortion is being broken down as more and more people such as journalists like Roisin Ingle and comedian Tara Flynn speak publicly, to their friends and family about their experience.

New websites are being set up to share stories about abortion (for example ShareYourAbortionStory) or the X-ile project which is an ongoing online gallery to give a much-needed face to women who have effectively been exiled from Ireland and ignored due to unduly strict abortion laws and demonstrate that those who choose to travel to have an abortion are responsible, ordinary women and are our neighbours, friends, colleagues, mothers, daughters and partners.

Kitty Holland has written in the Irish Times about women undertaking abortions at home with imported medication from a website in the Netherlands.

One women she spoke to explained how she was ‘working part time and trying to get college projects finished’ and ‘the thought of having a child on a meagre wage, living in an apartment I share with my mother . . . I wouldn’t be able to finish my education or look for work. What kind of start would that be for a baby?”  She was afraid to seek follow-up medical advice after taking the abortion medication at home.

A few weeks ago, Fergal Malone, the head of the Rotunda Maternity Hospital spoke on the RTÉ’s Late Late Show about the tragedy of parents of babies with fatal foetal abnormalities having to “courier” their child’s remains home because of Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws.

Opinion polls (including Newstalk’s latest poll last week) are consistently showing that a majority (67%) favour decriminalising abortion and a substantial majority (80%) in cases of foetal abnormalities or rape while a majority (75%) also favour holding a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Those favouring access to abortion as women chose has doubled in the last decade (with a majoring of 25-34 year olds in favour) while those opposed in all circumstances has halved and is now down to just 7%.


Changing attitudes to abortion in Ireland: Various Opinion Polls 1997-2015

Amnesty’s #notacriminal campaign (see below) shows how difficult it is to get a legal abortion in Ireland.They highlight that the lack of legal abortion is a denial of women’s human rights and the choice to have an abortion should be an entirely private matter decided between a girl or woman and her doctor.


An important factor in building support for the Repeal the 8th Amendment is for men to speak out in support and tell their stories about experiences of abortion.

Restriction of abortion is a broader human rights issue that discriminates and hurts men as well.Men face criminalisation for helping their partner or are often unable to travel with and support their partner due to difficulties paying for a second set of flights. The Irish constitution denies them the ability to be with the person they love, and playing an active role in being present to support their partner during a medical procedure.

This change in the public mood in favour of de-stigmatising and decriminalising abortion and ‘Repealing the 8th Amendment’ is being led by thousands of pro-choice activists and campaigners across the country.

The numbers attending the Annual ‘March for Choice’, held in September for four years now, have been growing with 10,000 attending in September 2015. While The Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment, includes over 50 organisations including feminist, human rights and pro-choice organisations, NGOs, trade unions, and political groups. It has written to all General Election candidates to pledge to calling for a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment.

Ireland is changing.

We are realising that equality means actually implementing equal rights for everyone.

And that includes women’s reproductive rights to have control over her own body – including the right to abortion in Ireland.

So when a politician comes knocking on your door in the next few weeks make sure you ask them what their position is. Let them know Ireland is changing and that its time for safe and legal abortion in Ireland so that women’s lives, health and choices are respected and protected.

Dr Rory Hearne is a Senior Policy Analyst with TASC, the Think-Tank for Action on Social Change. He is also an independent candidate for the Seanad NUI Colleges Panel. His column appears here every Wednesday and he writes in a personal capacity. Follow Rory on Twitter: @roryhearne

You can sign the petition in support of a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland here

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92 thoughts on “Ending The Hateful Eighth

  1. Panty Christ

    Make it an issue on the doorstep for election 16. take a phone, record the question to the election hopeful on the topic and hold them to account on their reply.

  2. han solo's carbonite dream

    “Those favouring access to abortion as women chose has doubled in the last decade (with a majoring of 25-34 year olds in favour) while those opposed in all circumstances has halved and is now down to just 7%.”
    not exactly comparing like with like…in that comparison are we ???

    I find stories like the following a bit odd
    “working part time and trying to get college projects finished’ and ‘the thought of having a child on a meagre wage, living in an apartment I share with my mother . . . I wouldn’t be able to finish my education or look for work. What kind of start would that be for a baby?”

    what kind of start would that be for the baby, she asks. It’s fairly blinkered to think that a poor start (in economic terms) is better than no start.
    Not withstanding state support and a college educated mother ,,,doesn’t sound too bad.

    I’m not here to rage against this woman per se just her reasoning is poor and not that realistic and not one to make somebody like me change my mind on abortion.

    I was in this situation at 23…I took a part time job as a bouncer kicking the lard out of drunks at the weekend and I curtailed my social life to make do.
    I know it looks like “i’m great” but we are where we are to quote the greatest minister for finance we ever had.

      1. Bertie Blenkinsop

        “Okay Phil, I accept it’s your band and that’s a decent opening line, but I still think ‘you were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar” scans better”.

        1. Lorcan Nagle

          So we’re meant to make medical decisions based on whether colloqial language matches up to the technical definitions now?

    1. Grace

      Who are you to judge her reasoning?? The decision to have an abortion should be no ones business but the woman concerned.

        1. han solo's carbonite dream

          of course. she (or the author of the piece) wrote about her reasoning.
          Once it’s aired as a reason i’m entitled to say it doesn’t add up or I disagree unless you are saying that on matters of abortion i just blindly accept what is said too me.
          and I didn’t judge her anyway if you read what I wrote.

          it’s her business .
          however it’s societies business if we want a society that says abortion is fine in ireland.
          if it’s not society’s business ( I think it is) that’s fine but let’s apply it to everything else that “isn’t anybody else’s business” like drug legalisation , suicide , smoking etc…

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            “let’s apply it to everything else that “isn’t anybody else’s business” like drug legalisation , suicide , smoking etc…”

            Absolutely. I’m all for drug and euthanasia legalising.

          2. Dόn Pídgéόní

            By that argument, if i understand your point, it can only be your business if it costs society something, i.e. if she had kept it and claimed benefits for example. In that smoking/drugs costs society. Not sure what the suicide is about.

            If she doesn’t do that, pays for it herself, does that still make it your business?

          3. newsjustin

            I don’t think you are understanding Han’s point. He didn’t say anything about financial cost to society.

            Society has an interest in social issues – euthanasia, abortion, capital punishment, drug abuse beyond the economic impact these have.

          4. Dόn Pídgéόní

            Because I have a uterus and bones in the game news. I can’t come back to Ireland because I would not have access to appropriate medical care. You have a massive sense of smugness and judgment which you are more than happy to put on other people because, oh you are just so concerned for everyone.

            Give me a break.

          5. newsjustin

            All this back and forth is great, but insults are a weak argument. You mistook what Han said Don. Get over it.

          6. Dόn Pídgéόní

            As always news, you ignore the main point of my comment. Nice deflection. How could you ever tell me what Hans might have meant when you are so skilled at this practice?

            human – I said no to a date the last time, leave it alone yeah?

          7. newsjustin

            Your point seemed to be that my opinion was unwelcome because I was not a woman.

            I’ll let you guess how strong an argument I think that is.

          8. MoyestWithExcitement

            Hi Justin. We’ve spoken before. You constantly respond to posts with questions that are actually in the posts you’re responding to. One might think one was a complete idiot for doing that repeatedly. I’m happy to help you once again, however. Her point had nothing to do with you being a man. If you read her posts, you’ll notice the following which was aimed at yourself; “You have a massive sense of smugness and judgment which you are more than happy to put on other people because” That has nothing to do with you being a man. You’re either lying about that or you’re crazy enough to see things that aren’t there over and over and over again.

          9. Dόn Pídgéόní

            Why, are you a woman now?

            Yes that was my point, well done. You are also happy to force people into very trying and difficult situations because that’s what you think morally is best. Which is immoral in itself.

            I don’t care if you don’t think that’s a valid argument or not. I do and others, whose opinion I value, do.

          10. MoyestWithExcitement

            Which was in response to you saying ‘pot kettle black’ when she pointed out that you always appear on abortion threads. She was merely saying that she’s always on abortion threads because she’s a woman. Once again, you’ve shown an embarrassingly terrible level of reading comprehension. It’s so bad, that I have to wonder if you’re just a parody troll. Maybe you’re just that dim, who knows. Anyway, once again, Don’s main point, which you ignored once again, was; “You have a massive sense of smugness and judgment which you are more than happy to put on other people because”

          11. MoyestWithExcitement

            “Don: NO MENZ ALLOED HEAR”

            It wasn’t even close to that. It was ‘My excuse for being on every abortion thread is that I’m a woman.” I don’t even know how you got that from what she said. Baffling.

          12. Dόn Pídgéόní

            Men can have a say but, for me, that is as allies, not as primary drivers of this. Bit nuanced for you rotide, I know

          13. rotide

            I understand your point but last time I checked, the constitution requires input from everyone, not just 50% of the population.

            Women may well be the ‘primary’ drivers of it but they certainly aren’t the sole drivers. Just as not all pro-life fanatics are men, not all pro choice advocates are women. Your militant antics are as dangerous as the ‘on demand, no term limits’ histrionics are to a succesful repeal.

          14. ZeligIsJaded


            Men do have a say, regardless of the label you ascribe them.

            Not sure the labels are particularly helpful tbh

          15. MoyestWithExcitement

            “Your militant antics are as dangerous as the ‘on demand, no term limits’ histrionics are to a succesful repeal.”

            No they aren’t. I also note your use of the word ‘militant’ to mischaracterise an opposing viewpoint. How very typically slimy.

          16. Dόn Pídgéόní

            Where did I say that my opinion extended to men not being allowed to vote?! Seriously

            “Women may well be the ‘primary’ drivers of it but they certainly aren’t the sole drivers”

            Yes, that’s what I’m saying

            “Your militant antics are as dangerous as the ‘on demand, no term limits’ histrionics are to a succesful repeal.”

            lol if you think that is militant in the slightest

          17. han solo's carbonite dream

            justin was spot on – sorry i’m late to return
            cost wasn’t referring to financial cost.

          18. Lorcan Nagle

            Justin is however wrong. Studies by Johns Hopkins University and the American Psychological Association show that the vast majority of women who have abortions have no regrets at all.

            It’s a common talking point in anti-choice circles to claim that there is psychological damage to women as a result of having abortions, but it’s generally FUD, using terminology such as “post-abortion syndrome”, which is not recognised as a disorder by any medical authority.

          19. MoyestWithExcitement

            Yeah they do that for transgender folks as well. And gays. Sure isn’t ‘gay conversion therapy’ a thing over in the states? When you don’t have an argument, try and claim the moral high ground.

    2. ReproBertie

      If you were kicking the lard out of drunks you were a very poor bouncer. I worked as a bouncer for two and a half years and never once had to resort to violence.

    3. Clampers Outside!

      Em…. “Not withstanding state support and a college educated mother ,,,doesn’t sound too bad” …. the whole point is that college would have to end, so there’d be no ‘college educated mother’.

      The whole point you seem to be making is akin to “man up”, so… I’m out.

    1. newsjustin

      Good question Jimmee.

      I would say never. That’s my opinion.

      Some very honest people on here will tell you “at any stage a woman wants”. Most will just mumble something about “viability” and pull a magic figure of eg 24 weeks out of their ear.

  3. Cool_Hand_Lucan

    One thing I don’t understand – if the pro-life brigade genuinely believed that abortion is the murdering of babies, why aren’t they protesting outside the UK embassy or the US embassy or the embassy of any country that permits abortion?

    Why aren’t they calling for a boycott of these countries or calling for trade sanctions or even military intervention if they genuinely believed these states were in the business of murdering babies?

  4. Owen C

    “Men face criminalisation for helping their partner”

    I’m sorry, but can someone explain this part to me? I have never heard this before. Unless Dr Hearne is referring to back street abortion type situations in Ireland?

    1. Clampers Outside!

      Garda: “You had an illegal abortion in Ireland?”
      Woman: “Yes”
      Garda: “Were you assisted?”
      Woman: “My husband [partner] was with me all the way and helped me get one”
      Garda: “Right, we have to lock him up as well for aiding and abetting”

      1. Owen C

        Ok, so Dr Hearne appears to be advocating the decriminalisation of back street abortions in Ireland? This really doesn’t seem like a good idea. Even very pro-choice people should be able to see this. This is not the talking point to be pushing.

          1. Owen C

            @ Fluffy

            Well, what I’m looking at is a reference which relates to men being criminally involved with illegal abortions under the current law (so i asked “how?”) and then another reference to opinion polls seeking “decriminalisation”. Now, maybe this is just poor choice of language, but is decriminalisation seen as being different to legalisation? And I still don’t see how this squares with anything other than a backstreet procedure? Clampers used the term “illegal abortion in Ireland”, so I don’t know how else I should read into that? Serious question.

            @ Moyest – ssshhh please, the adults are talking now.

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            We are, yes. You should probably back out now…or keep digging. Actually, keep digging. It’s much funnier.

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          You really do take crazy logical leaps to criticise anyone who doesn’t follow the FG line. He’s not looking to decriminalise backstreet abortions. Jesus H.

        2. Lorcan Nagle

          There’s a difference between backstreet abortions and taking the so-called abortion pill. (I say so-called because inducing a miscarraige is an off-label use of the medication, there’s two types of pills and it’s a series of 12 pills). The pill is safe in the vast majority of cases, and medical complicaitons can generally be dealt with by A&E. In many countries, women who want an abortion are given the pills as a prescription to take at home.

          By comparison, a backalley abortion is a surgical procedure and the complications are very dangerous, up to and including septecemia.

          1. Owen C

            Ok, this perhaps answers my question – is it abortion pills which are at the being reference when we speak of men being complicit in ‘illegality’ and “illegal abortions”?

          2. Lorcan Nagle

            Under the protection of life during pregnancy act, it’s a crime to illegally procure a miscarraige in Ireland, with a prison sentence of up to 14 years for the woman and anyone who helps her.

            So say my wife was pregnant and we didn’t want it, but couldn’t afford to travel. If I ordered the pills online with my paypal account, successfully got them through customs, she took them, and it was somehow found out and we were arrested and convicted, we’d both be liable for prison time.

  5. Zuppy International

    Whoa there Mister vagueness. First clarify this disastrous conjunction –

    “Last year over 3,700 women had to travel to the UK while over 150,000 have had to take a plane or boat to England or another country to have an abortion […]”

    Second: tell us the source of these figures.

    Third: deal with the Abortion-Huggers war on motherhood as outlined in this video.

    Fourth: Are you really arguing equality for everyone EXCEPT the unborn? Is that your fundamental objection to the 8th amendment?

          1. Zuppy International

            You’re a clump of cells fluffy, but nobody is arguing against your right to life.

            Now, if you don’t mind I waiting for the *ahem* Dr’s response.

          2. Zuppy International

            “Im a clump of cells capable of living independently of the body and am a sentient being”

            You sentence construction argues against itself and your self-proclaimed sentience.

            I’m done with you. Send in the ‘Dr’.

          3. fluffybiscuits

            an ad hominem attack, well done Zuppy on that one!

            A career in Iona may beckon for you, if you stay successfully for six months you get the special Iona miraculous medal (its powers are rumoured to be that it keeps pro aborts at bay and gets you a direct line to a firm of solicitors in case you wish to sue RTE)…

          4. MoyestWithExcitement

            “Now, if you don’t mind I waiting for the *ahem* Dr’s response.”

            LOL. I do love internet message boards. It’s like going to a people zoo. I’m currently in the ‘delusional levels of grandeur’ section.

    1. ZeligIsJaded

      No one likes the idea of abortion.

      Some people have genuine fears of an abuse system, as they see it, were the 8th to be repealed.

      Should that fear interfere with a woman’s right to a safe termination when it is required? Of course not!

      Does this make people’s fears unfounded, or silly? Of course not!

  6. phil

    What would happen if a upstanding professional middle class woman presented herself at a Garda station , and told them she had broke the law and had an abortion. If the Gardai had not choice to pursue the case , I suspect that situation would be a great help in getting things moving …

    It would be a huge embarrassment to the state

    1. Cathy

      Define upstanding . I have often thought about this and it seems an excellent way to force the issue and actually see the government try to deal with the reality .

      Can you imagine the smear campaign against the woman though ? There are still many people who think an upstanding woman would not end up in a crisis pregnancy . (These people do not live in the real world )

      1. Dόn Pídgéόní

        +1 – just like the cases in NI. It will be interesting to see what happens there, though I see they have put in a challenge to the recent ruling on human rights

      2. phil

        Cathy, I didnt mean to offend by using the word ‘upstanding’ , as you say there would be an effort by some to dig into her past in order to smear , for instance , not having the abortion for lifestyle or financial reasons.

        but anyway, as a man I consider this to be an issue between a woman and her medical team , so Ill stay quite for a bit …

  7. Neilo

    No, it’s perfectly fine to have a nutsack and stick your oat on as long as you remain bien pensant on the issue.

Comments are closed.

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