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Bill seeks repeal of amendment protecting unborn

By Susan Gately - 28 September, 2014

PLC warns private members' bill aims to strip away any "remaining legal protection for the unborn child to create a regime where abortion is available on request."

foetusSocialist deputy Ruth Coppinger has introduced a private member’s bill in the Dáil proposing a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment to the Constitution which inserted a clause acknowledging the “right to the life of the unborn”.

The Socialist introduced the private member’s bill earlier this week and called for a referendum to be held on the same day in spring next year as the same-sex marriage referendum.

Speaking in the Dáil last week, Ms Coppinger said the passing of the two referenda “would be a double endorsement of progress and a signal to the rest of the world that the Catholic Church’s writ does not run in spite of the wishes of the rest of society.”

She said it would also be a “hammer blow” to the Church’s “domination of many areas of life”.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger

Deputy Ruth Coppinger

However, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said there was a time and place “for the consideration of a non-ideological debate” but this should not happen “on foot of a tragedy or in the run up to a general election”.

Commenting on the private member’s bill, which is being introduced  by deputies Ruth Coppinger and Joe Higgins, Cora Sherlock of the Pro Life Campaign said the two deputies were  in complete and utter denial regarding the humanity of unborn babies and the hurt and heartbreak of abortion for so many women.

“There is not a single mention in any of their utterances about the rights of unborn babies throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy,” she said.

“It is easy to talk about the right to abortion while at the same time conveniently airbrushing out of the equation any mention of the baby,” Cora Sherlock warned.

Ms Sherlock said the bill being tabled had nothing to do with “life-saving treatments for expectant mothers” but was rather about ” stripping away any remaining legal protection for the unborn child to create a regime where abortion is available on request.”

The 8th amendment passed in 1983 inserted a new sub-section after section 3 of Article 40.

The resulting Article 40.3.3° reads: “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.”

Cora Sherlock of PLC

Cora Sherlock of PLC

The private members’ bill is expected to be debated next week during opposition private member’s time.

Ms Sherlock said pro choice groups were pushing for the repeal of the 8th amendment to create the impression that the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was restrictive but this was not the case.

The act which introduced abortion allowed for abortion up to birth in the case of threatened suicide, ignoring “all the medical evidence” showing that abortion was not a treatment for suicidal feelings.

She also questioned the findings of a recent poll which showed majority support for  a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment.

“If the public were asked in a poll ‘Do you support the repeal of the Government’s new abortion law which allows abortion up to birth, based on no medical evidence,’ it would paint an entirely different picture. It would not be a loaded or misleading question to ask. It would merely reflect the reality of what is now legal.”

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