As the Referendum on the Eighth Amendment draws near, each of us with the right to vote should be thinking carefully and responsibly about the issues involved. These are complex and difficult.
The Referendum itself is about whether to repeal Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, known as the Eighth Amendment. It gives equal rights to the mother and her unborn child; only permitting an abortion when the life of a pregnant woman is at risk. Should a ‘Yes’ vote prevail, then the Oireachtas will be given the powers to decide on what legislation is necessary. The Church of Ireland has, for many years, argued that this is not a matter for the Constitution but for legislators.
The memory of what happened to Savita Halappavanar in Galway five-and-a-half years ago looms large in many people’s minds in the West of Ireland. That a young woman lost her life unnecessarily is both tragic and shocking. Equally, the fact that so many women are forced to travel to England and Wales for terminations of pregnancies or acquire abortion pills on the internet, says little for a mature 21st century Ireland.
The dilemma, however, is that the Government seems set on linking a ‘Yes’ vote with its proposal to allow for unrestricted supervised abortion, albeit after medical consultation, in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This is much less restrictive than we would have hoped and expected.
As things stand, this is a referendum in which there will be no winners. Either result will mean that the most defenceless in our society, vulnerable mothers and the unborn, will continue to suffer. May each of us vote according to our conscience, considering prayerfully the serious implications of the choice that is before us on Friday 25th May.