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To Repeal or Not – that is the question!

THIS Friday, 25th May, the country votes in what has possibly been the most divisive, nuanced and emotionally charged referendum in the history of the state – something which is acknowledged on both sides of the argument. Also, whether or not the outcome of the vote will be for the betterment of society here in Ireland we’ll probably never know.
Many things have changed in Ireland since 1983 when the Eighth Amendment was inserted into the Constitution. It guarantees to protect as far as practicable the equal right to life of the unborn child and the mother – and prohibits abortion in almost all cases. A significant turning point in that campaign was when the bishops stated that a person could no longer be a Catholic if they did not support the referendum. That was that.
Thirty-five years on, the influence of the Catholic Church has waned and there is a significant section of Irish society which supports liberalisation of abortion laws to an extent not thought possible even up to five years ago.
Many of those now campaigning for repeal of the 8th Amendment were also involved in the same sex-marriage campaign in 2015. That was an exuberant, feel-good campaign that developed unstoppable momentum. The evidence so far, however, is that the Repeal campaign was not a simple re-run of that referendum.
For some voters at least, what’s on offer now represents an uncomfortable choice. The retain side’s position is too inflexible for them, not allowing for exceptional cases such as pregnancies as a result of rape or incest, or fatal foetal abnormalities (which mean a child cannot live outside the womb). There is also the question of the rights balance between the mother and the unborn child.


Yet, the alternative, unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks (which the Government has said it intends to legislate for if the Eighth Amendment is repealed), seems a step too far for many voters, according to those who have canvassed them. For them it seems to be heading uncomfortably close to abortion on demand. There also seems to be a city/country divide – the urban voter favouring repeal with the rural voter having particular difficulty with the 12 weeks.
It is a complex debate with many ethical, social and moral factors. We urge you to go out and vote on May 25th and have your say on an issue which will have important implications for Irish society in the decades ahead.