Repeal the 8th
In late May 2018, the Republic of Ireland, still considered the most intransigent Catholic state in the world, will hold a referendum on repealing the 1983 eighth amendment of the Irish constitution. Currently, the eighth amendment outlaws abortion by giving the life of the foetus equal value to the mother’s, except in circumstances where the pregnancy is life-threatening. Therefore, cases of pregnancy as a result of rape or incest, or where a foetal abnormality is found, do not legally qualify as severe enough to be granted a legal abortion. The conditions of ‘life-threatening circumstances’ are also blurred, as this only caters for cases where medical professionals are certain that the pregnant woman would not be able to survive the birth or withstand the pregnancy, but excludes attempted suicide and suicidal thoughts. This exclusion rose to notoriety in 1992 with the ‘X Case’, where a 14-year-old rape victim was prohibited from travelling to England for an abortion and was only granted permission when it became evident that she would be driven to suicide if otherwise.
The main issue preventing a change in Ireland is the concern over a complete loss of the state’s fundamentally devout Catholicism. However, a solid shift from a traditionalist to an accepting state has already been exemplified through the legalisation of same-sex marriage in November 2015, and in June 2017 by the appointment of Leo Varadkar as Prime Minister, Ireland’s first openly gay government leader. Therefore, where change is already inevitably underway, it is only a matter of time until the Republic must embrace millennial views holistically. Another main concern for Irish voters who are against the repeal is the belief that legalising ‘on demand’ abortions, and not just amending the circumstances where abortion would be acceptable, is unethical. Voters against the repeal claim that no one should have the right to determine another human being’s future (which some might say is incredibly ironic).
Regardless of current legislation, abortion is still taking place in Ireland through women smuggling in the abortion pill, Mifepristone. Therefore, the main difference that repealing the amendment would make is that women would no longer be endangering themselves through the improper and unsafe administration of the pill without medical guidance.
Despite reports that the results of this referendum will be closer than that of 2015 – 63% in favour of the latter, compared to an estimated 54% in favour, thus suggesting that half of the population of Ireland still have some way to go in embracing the steady progression away from traditionalist values – the likely success of the repeal appears positive, as a state that is already caught up in the throes of change has no way to progress from there but by steadily continuing forward.
By Elicka Ghahramani
(Image courtesy of Reuters)