Magazine article New Internationalist

Repeal the Eighth!

Magazine article New Internationalist

Repeal the Eighth!

Article excerpt

IRELAND

A long-awaited referendum on abortion is due this May, which will offer citizens the chance to repeal the constitution's eighth amendment and liberalize Ireland's strict legislation. The country's abortion laws are among the harshest in the European Union and have been denounced as 'cruel and inhumane' by the UN's human rights committee.

Abortion has been illegal since the republic was established in 1919, but the 'right to life of the unborn' was only enshrined in the constitution when the eighth amendment was passed in 1983. Even in clear-cut situations where continuing pregnancy places the mother's life in immediate danger, abortion is not readily offered.

One such case, in 2012, revived what had been until then a dormant pro-choice movement. Savita Halappanavar was denied an abortion in a Dublin hospital after a miscarriage had begun but a foetal heartbeat could still be detected; she died six days later from septicaemia. Her avoidable death caused public outcry and grassroots action, including campaigns for the upcoming referendum to be held. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and the leader of the opposition Michael Martin have both come out in favour of repealing the eighth amendment, despite sharing socially conservative and anti-abortion views. …

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