As the United States continues to battle the horrifying consequences of Roe v. Wade, Ireland is approaching a similar crossroad. Faced with its own landmark decision on May 25, the country could allow women to abort children up to twelve weeks after pregnancy.
The Irish Eighth Amendment proclaims 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.” Passed in 1983, the controversial law is now being called into question. According to The Independent, a United Kingdom based news source, the referendum of 1983 was supported by over 66% of voters, with 33% opposed. Today, both sides appear even, with a slight favor towards repealing the law.
This reversal is not sudden, rather it comes after years of modifications that have loosened the amendment’s effects. In 1992, for example, additional amendments were passed that allowed for women to travel abroad for abortions. In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Ireland’s stanch stance against abortion, criticizing it as violating human rights that were outlined in the European Convention for Human Rights. 2013 marked the final major stride in Ireland’s quest to liberalize its laws, as scenarios were outlined that would allow for an abortion to occur if the mother’s life was at risk. While this sounds reasonable to many, such risks include the possibility of suicide, which could be technically claimed by any person seeking an abortion.
Several sources report a confidence from the repeal side of the vote. Many corporations, including Google and Facebook, have stripped foreign pro-life groups from advertising in defense of the unborn. While these media companies have also banned pro-choice causes from doing the same, this decision seems to have primarily impacted the former.
Making matters worse, support from the religious arm of the country has severely diminished. Census numbers report a steep decline from 94% Catholicity in the 1950s to 72% in 2016. A traditionally conservative country, Ireland has recently embraced numerous “progressive” policies, despite the long-term negative effects such policies have caused in other nations. The decline of religion has been tied to what could be considered “counter-culture” movements across the country, as many of these developments seem to be directed against the Catholic Church, amongst other traditionalist institutions.
Matters seem bleak for the fate of the unborn in Ireland, which will be determined as May 25 approaches.
5/25/18 Update: According to The Washington Post, exit polls from two well-regarded sources, Ipsos MRBI and RTE, showed that nearly 70% of voters chose to repeal the Eighth Amendment (68% and 69.4%, respectively). Elections officials are expected to release a final vote tally tomorrow (5/26).