Irish Series: Ireland taking the “8th” step forward

The Irish Constitution, in particular the Eighth Amendment, which equates the right to life of a pregnant woman with that of an embryo or foetus, has come under severe scrutiny and criticism in recent years. This has been compounded by the high profile “Repeal the 8th” campaign, which has seen women and men across the world march and campaign in protest against the offending article.

The campaign, which includes a petition to the Government to repeal the article, on the basis that it infringes on basic human rights, denies access to basic health care, criminalises those who self-administer abortion pills in Ireland and does not reflect present public opinion, has been gathering momentum over the past number of years. So much so that the Irish Government has this week confirmed that the Cabinet has agreed to draft a bill that would allow a referendum on the 1983-enacted Eighth Amendment to take place.

This is a significant step forward in the fight by the Pro-Choice campaign to bring about reform of what appears to many to be an inhumane and draconian piece of legislation. Ireland has been seen in recent years to be a forward thinking and progressive country. This was particularly so after the Referendum in 2015 which saw Ireland become the first country to legalise same sex marriage by popular vote.

The Irish Government will also publish legislation to allow for two more referendums to take place later in 2018, one of which will remove the crime of blasphemy in the Constitution and the other will remove the article which contains a reference to women’s role in the home, if passed.

The hope is that the Referendum in relation to the Eighth Amendment will take place in May 2018.

This is however an area where the Irish Government are proceeding with caution, due to possible difficulties with an ongoing appeal taking place in the Supreme Court, relating to a ruling by the High Court that the Irish Constitution confers significant rights upon the “unborn child” beyond the right to life.

This will be explored in greater detail in our further article in the Irish Legal series. Check back then for further insight or contact Caoimhe Boyce on cboyce@meaby.co.uk

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