Grania explains today’s Irish referendum on abortion

May 25, 2018 • 8:30 am

Today Ireland is at last holding a referendum on abortion. Grania, who of course lives in that country, explains it to us concisely:

Today Ireland is holding a referendum to poll whether the people wish to repeal the 8th amendment. Here’s some background.

Article 40.3.3, known as the Eighth Amendment, was voted into the Irish Constitution by referendum in 1983. The amendment states: “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.:

The amendment equates the life of a pregnant woman with that of an embryo or foetus, and has created an unworkable distinction between a pregnant woman’s life and her health.

The amendment was set in place specifically and deliberately to prevent abortion in Ireland. As a direct result, pregnant women were denied life-saving medical interventions if such interventions could interfere with the health of the fetus. In addition to this, it meant that nobody could obtain abortion under any circumstance—not rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormalities.

Women in Ireland have only one option, to travel to the UK where they could obtain an abortion—dependent of course on whether they are physically or financially able to do so.

In 1992, Ireland held a referendum to try to ban women from travelling outside of Ireland to obtain an abortion. Fortunately, this attempt failed and Ireland was left with the hypocritical, dangerous and bizarre position of having condoned abortion so long as it happens outside of the country’s borders.

The need for the referendum is because the Irish Constitution cannot be amended unless ratified by a simple majority.

The effect of the referendum is only to repeal the Eighth Amendment. Later legislation will have to be enacted. Currently proposed legislation would allow for unlimited abortion up to 12 weeks, and afterwards only for medical reasons.

Grania will report tomorrow on the outcome, but people are hopeful it will pass. The Catholic Church, of course, is weighing in heavily on the “no repeal” side, but polls show that more than 50% of voters are in favor of repeal.  I am heartened by the many people on Twitter supporting the repeal. This one, in particular, warmed my heart: these people all met at the airport; they were independently returning to Ireland just to vote:

Grania found these tweets and pictures; three Twitter hashtags are Together for YES, Repeal the Eighth, and Home to Vote (see also here).

56 thoughts on “Grania explains today’s Irish referendum on abortion

  1. It is worth noting that very strict abortion laws also apply in Northern Ireland, where — as in the Republic of Ireland — rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities are not considered grounds to permit an abortion. This is why women from across the island of Ireland are forced to go to mainland Britain to end their unwanted pregnancies.

    It almost goes without saying that the baleful and regressive effects of religion are the reason for this state of affairs on both sides of the Irish border.

    1. Two different religions, united only in their professed hatred of each other – and of women.


          1. No, they’re as bigoted and narrow-minded as the worst of the RC’s.

            (A bit like American Fundies for Trump, I guess. Voting on the grounds of who they hate most, which is liberals.)


  2. I do most sincerely wish Grania and all Irish women the very best of luck with this.

    It’s time Ireland dragged itself into the 20th century.


  3. Voted this morning, for repeal. Had to go home to the boglands to do it as I live in the pale, never moved my vote. Fingers are now crossed. My friends who’ve been campaigning, have said they’ve gotten a good response from the young under 30’s and from women in their 60’s. Biggest no vote is males in their 30’s to 50’s.
    Turnout is essential, a large turnout means more youth vote, which can win this. It’s going to be tight. Divorce in 1995 was 50.3% yes.
    The 13th(right to travel) and 14th(right to information) were passed by around 69% of the vote and the 12th(exclusion of suicide) was rejected by 65.4% this would have overturned the supreme court decision on the X case.

    34th amendment(marriage equality)62.1% in favour.

    Anyway fingers crossed that it’s repealed and the legislation is brought in before this government falls.

    If you’re Irish and have the vote…vote

    1. Well done kieran!

      One of my colleagues (we have a huge unit in Tipperary) has had Repeal splashed all over her FB lately. I’ve clicked “like” on every one.

      We are hopeful for you(-all in Eire)!

  4. Ireland is moving in this direction just as the US is moving in its opposite. The red states are falling all over themselves in an effort to restrict reproductive rights. Mississippi, for example, recently passed a law banning abortion after 15 weeks.

    Trump, under the sway of the Federalist Society, is larding the federal bench with ultra-conservative judges who will strain to find away to uphold these laws under existing precedent. And we are, of course, just one RBG (or Anthony Kennedy) heartbeat away from seeing Roe v. Wade reversed.

          1. It’s not.

            These states are trying to set up a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade in the hope it will be overruled, The state legislators are also virtue signaling to their right-wing base, in advance of this year’s midterm elections, that they’re fighting the good fight against the forces of evil abortionists).

            1. If the GOP actually succeeds in banning abortion through the high court and prosecuting women for executing their banished right, I can’t see a scenario where the GOP survives. A reversal like that would tear this country apart far more than RvW did in the first place.

              The virtue signalling and liberal hating shit fills the air waves, but it’s not having a real impact on the ground. Especially with minorities, women being a part of that group. I predict the D-voting numbers in these midterm elections will resound. The 18+ student voters are becoming a one-issue gun-control voter and their block is potentially larger than any of the GOP’s (citation needed). A big wave is coming and the data seems to point towards blue.

            2. Thank you Ken, I feared I somehow was way out of touch, but you say I’m not. Great relief (for me, not for the women denied their rights, of course).
              I hope these anti-women dregs will get routed in the midterms.

    1. I wonder what will get reversed first, Roe v. Wadef or Obergefell v. Hodges. If/when abortion is made illegal and punishable in the US, I will seriously start thinking about moving to Vancouver, B.C. a few hours to the north. Religion has a chance to ruin this nation as it’s ruined many nations throughout history up to present times. I don’t think I could live in a theocracy that the GOP seems to think is the way to go.

      1. I think Roe is in more peril than Obergefell. There are hundreds of thousands of same-sex marriages in the US, and doubtless tens of thousands more in the planning. To overrule Obergefell would throw the nation into social disarray — one of the circumstances SCOTUS considers in deciding whether to abandon stare decisis (the legal principle that decided cases should be allowed to stand).

        Plus, the religious right has a 45-year head of steam over Roe. It’s a Culture War slight they mean to avenge.

          1. I agree, Rowena, probably in the millions. And I think that it’s crucial that the right to abortion be kept legal.

            I’m only saying that, strictly from the standpoint of stare decisis, if the Court were to overrule Roe, nine months later, there wouldn’t be any women who had gotten pregnant with the expectation they’d have the right to an abortion — unlike people who had gotten married in reliance on Obergefell, thinking their marriage would be (more or less) permanent.

  5. The next great thing the people of Ireland can do after removing the Catholic church from around their necks is to come over here and do the same in the U.S. Unfortunately they will likely have to do it one state at a time and they can start in Iowa.

  6. Piglet has succeeded in being one of the most eloquent spokes characters in the hundred acre wood.

  7. From what I’ve seen in the news, looks like Irish expatriates are making the odyssey to the homeland from the Irish diaspora to vote on this, just as they did for the same-sex marriage referendum.

    1. While I think they should do this, I figure it might not end well. I can see people pushing to change the citizenship laws …

      Though with the EU that might be difficult!

  8. Meanwhile the Isle of Man is also, hopefully, about to repeal its abortion ban.

    A private member’s bill allowing for abortion ‘on request’ up to 14 weeks has passed the lower House 22 votes to 2 and is up for consideration by the Legislative Council. The Isle of Man seems to have swung rapidly from being highly conservative until quite recently, to very progressive.


  9. All the luck with getting rid of this horrible, unconscionable and inhumane ban.
    Here in SA we’re luckily having a good ‘incremental’ abortion law, on demand up to 12 weeks, for socio-economic, psychological or other reasons up to 18 weeks, and for rape, incest, severe malformation of the fetus, etc. up to 20 weeks. After that only if the mother’s life is endangered.
    Problem is, many doctors and sisters are opposed to abortion and refuse to carry it out (which is legal), but also refuse to refer properly (which is illegal) or shame the woman in question (which is illegal too), or fail to properly keep the request under medical confidentiality (which is a felony). Hence, despite a good law, there still are quite a few backstreet abortions here.
    My point is, the repeal is just a first step. There appears to be a long way to go.

    1. Over the years my position has changed a lot. I accept early term or medical necessity, but I view late term abortion on demand as infanticide.

      Nothing to do with religion. It comes from an appreciation of the beauty of children.

      1. So are you in favor of imposing your aesthetic judgments regarding the beauty of children on pregnant women?

        No woman in the US is ever legally required to have an abortion, late-term or otherwise. The question is whether the government can prohibit women from doing so — and, if so, what should be the penalties.

      2. I think aesthetics are not a good guideline, since aesthetics are so subjective (de gustibus…).
        However, I think ‘incremental’ legislation is right, because it recognises there is a process from a single cell to a fully grown, viable baby.
        [Note, I’m with Singer and our host on infanticide in case of severe suffering in hopeless cases.]

      3. Most children are disgusting, most of the time. Noisy, smelly, messy, destructive, malicious little horrors. It takes a peculiar bit of wiring in the human brain to say ‘isn’t s/he cute’.

        But what that has to do with abortion or foetuses I’m buggered if I know.


        1. The great 20th century American comic actor W.C. Fields said “any man who hates dogs and babies can’t be all bad.”

          Something tells me you two would’ve gotten along. 🙂

        2. Yes, they are, but that is no excuse for killing them 🙂
          I’m sure there is an evolutionary reason we are so often enthralled by babies, especially if your own. That ‘wiring’ probably is, no certainly is, adaptive. Babies that don’t get the attention and care they need (despite being ‘noisy, smelly, messy, destructive, malicious little horrors) will not have much offspring. Simple.

  10. Interesting Guardian article – here’s hoping for more people like the writer’s parents.

    They voted for the insertion of the eighth amendment in 1983, the year I was born. My father taught religion for 40 years, and is now voting to liberalise the abortion law. His position is a thoughtful one. “Coming from a rural, traditional background, I would have maintained traditional Catholic values,” he said. “But through time, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not my business to tell anybody – and certainly women – what to do … I feel that it’s easy for people of my age, my generation, to lay down the law about women in that situation [a crisis pregnancy].

    “Times have changed … I notice that the very people who are now campaigning very vigorously for a no vote – and again that is their right – they’re the very people who opposed the marriage referendum. I get the feeling that on occasions of sexual morality, these people seem to appear out of nowhere, very well-funded, very articulate, and obviously very well-connected. They want to maintain the status quo, for whatever reason, I don’t know.”

    My mother is not just voting yes, but has been canvassing for the campaign to repeal the eighth. She and my father are both people who do not see their deep faith as incompatible with voting yes to repeal. The behaviour of the church throughout the campaign – bishops speaking about reproduction, lay people invited to preach anti-abortion messages at mass, and so on – has irritated and hurt them.

    1. Its very encouraging that–at least in some cases–the effect of some obviously ideologically prepared foreigners (ones who have just arrived for this purpose alone)with a single issue on thier mind is to make people suspicious.

  11. Pooh’s reply has been cut off in the last panel.
    It should read “‘My favourite day’ says Pooh”.

      1. Two exit polls, around 70% to 30% in each one. Results should start to come through from 2pm UTC. Final results around 7pm. Tallies should start around 12.

        Court case and then an attack on the proposed legislation, stall it till an election and hope they can take on the pro choice candidates

      2. Yes I’d say that any exit poll with such huge margins, any serious exit poll with even a few percentage points, should clinch it.
        In other words, if results and exit polls diverge by, say, more than 2-3 percentage points an investigation into vote rigging should be mandatory.

        1. This is absurd. Aside from the fact it’s easier to rig an exit poll than a real poll, it’s wrong to make things “mandatory” on the basis of polls by corporations or interest groups. And depending on when and how the exit polls are done they will often fail to be a random sample, complicating any argument you want to make.

          1. No, I said a serious exit poll. I note that the Ukranian elections were rejected as false by the US just because the difference between exit polls and final results were about 4%.
            And yes, I double down on this. Any counting differing more than 2-3% of the exit polls is deeply suspect and should be investigated. I note that the Brexit exit polls were only 0.2% ‘wrong’ (So they were right).
            The fact that in 2016 elections all the swing states that had Ms Clinton winning in the exit polls and Mr Trump ended up winning the count were overseen by a Rep, and the only swing state where this did not happen (Virginia) was overseen by a Dem, is enough to at least investigate the counting. It shouts: “Fraud”, loud and clearly, and I think an investigation should be mandatory in these cases indeed.

  12. We knew from the exit polls (a 20% margin, not even the staunchest critic/denialist of exit polls would not call that insignificant) that reason had won. Good for Ireland! Hooray! Now the real struggle begins (Cf supra).

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