Literature her family. It is then believed that

Literature review

The changing laws in
Ireland since 1983

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Abortion in Ireland has always been a very controversial
topic, there is still lots of stigma surrounding it. The Eighth Amendment of
the Constitution Act, was introduced in 1983 after a referendum that took place
on the 7th September 1983. (Barry,
2018)   Due to the Eighth
Amendment being a Constitutional law it requires a referendum to take place for
public to vote on whether it should be removed or kept in place. (Amrouche,
2017) The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Act 1983 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. (Eight Amendment of the Constitution Act, 1983)” (Amrouche, 2017)


Nine years on, the “X” case
hit headlines. The “X” case was where a 14-year old Irish rape victim was
prevented from leaving the jurisdiction of Ireland, so that she could access an
abortion as she had fallen pregnant after being raped. A month after she had
been prevented, she was permitted to leave the jurisdiction following an appeal
that was lodged to the Supreme Court by her family. It is then believed that
she travelled to Britain where her pregnancy was terminated. (Smyth 1993) After
this case had been reported the European Court of human rights had to intervene
in Ireland’s abortion law (McDonald, 2012), leading to there being a second
referendum where three policies were put forward to the public. The freedom to travel outside the State for an abortion and
the freedom to obtain or make available information on abortion services
outside the State, subject to condition were both passed whereas removing
suicide as a ground for permitting a medical termination was rejected. (, 2018)


Following these adjustments to
the constitution, there was a referendum in 2002, where the voters of Ireland
rejected the Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, which would have
removed suicide as the ground for abortion, while also increasing the penalties
for assisting a woman who wants to carry out an abortion. Only 42.89% of the
eligible electorate, turned up to vote. 50.42% of these voted to reject the
Bill while 49.58% voted in favour for the
new Bill to come into place. (, 2018) These tight percentages show just how
controversial the topic of abortion in Ireland, truly is.


In 2012, another story hit the spotlight, this time it was about
31-year old Savita Halappanavar’s, she was 17-weeks pregnant and was in the
process of miscarrying. She was refused a termination, but repeated asking for three
days. The reason for the medical staff refusing to allow her a medical
termination was due to the fact that they could still detect a foetal
heartbeat. She died a week later after being admitted of septicaemia. It’s
reported that she was told that she was in a “Catholic country” and thus she
had to obey the Catholic country laws. (McDonald, 2012) After this story emerged
the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act changed once again. In July 2013, the
President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins signed in the new Protection of Life
during Pregnancy Act, which kept all the same amendments as the previous one,
however it also stated that if the women’s life was at risk, a lawful medical
termination would be allowed. It also included 25 hospitals where the
termination would be able to take place. This act however did not go into
operation until the 1st of January. (,


Criminal offences

If a
woman was to have an abortion in Ireland now, she faces up to 14 years in
prison. (Beazley, 2017) International human rights
laws and standards make it clear to understand that women should not have to
face criminal penalties for having a medical termination. Health care advisers
and providers should also not be criminally prosecuted for providing safe
medical termination services to women. (Amnesty International, 2017) So this is
why there has been many cases of women that have believed that Ireland has
affected their basic human rights and gone to the European Court of Human


Travelling to access an

From my research from four sources, I have found that roughly 9-12
women a day on average travel from Ireland to another country to access an
abortion. (Repeal Eight, 2017) The main place that these women travel to, is
Britain. In 2016, according to the abortion statistics released by England and
Wales, there was 4,810 terminations carried out to women that had put
themselves down as a non-resident of the UK. 68% of these woman were resident
in the Republic of Ireland, which meant that out of 4,810 women, 3,265 of those
women were resident in the Republic of Ireland. Bearing in mind, this was only
the amount of women that specified their address, as some women don’t. (Department for Health, 2017)


Why is abortion in Ireland illegal?

main reason as to why abortion in Ireland is illegal, is largely down to the
religious influence that the Catholic Church has had on the country. The
Catholic Church see abortion as murder and reject the idea that no matter the
circumstance, abortion is and will always be wrong. So for this reason the
Catholic Church is opposing the repeal.
(O’Halloran, 2018)
The Catholic
Church has predominantly shaped education, healthcare, media and domestic
relation. (O’Donnell, 2017) For example if your child hasn’t been baptised
“Catholic” there is less chance of them being able to go to a Catholic school. However,
the number of people that now identify as Catholic has gone down, two years
before the Eighth Amendment was implemented in 1983, the Census of 1981 that
the Central Statistics Office collected showed that 93.1% of the population
identified a being Roman Catholic, where as in 2016 this number had dropped
down to 78.3%. (Central Statistics Office, n.d.)


Year of Census


(Central Statistics Office,




The graph shown above shows the religious
identification that the people of Ireland had put down on the census in the
four respective years shown. I picked these years because they were just before
or after a referendum about changing the legalities of having a medical
termination. I believe that this is important information because it shows that
the members of the Catholic Church are in decline which could be the reason as
to why there is such a spotlight of having the Eighth Amendment of the
Constitution Act repealed. One of the reasons as to why people associating
themselves with the Catholic Church could be down to the feeling of hypocrisy
but also the many scandals that have come out about the Church in past 20-30
years. (O’Donnell, 2017)


Why change the law now?

The decision for the 2018 Referendum was decided
by the new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, as he promised a vote for the country where
one of the options would be to loosen the constitutional ban on medical
terminations. (Beesley, 2017) Ahead of the referendum that will be taking place
in either May or June of 2018, the Taoiseach believes that everyone needs to be respectful, and should not be
pressured into taking a particular view or decision – “I would call for respect
from all sides for all sides in this debate.” He then went on to say, “The
Irish people will ultimately make this decision, and I absolutely trust the
Irish people to make the right decision based on compassion, based on empathy,
whilst not disrespecting human life.” (O’Halloran, 2017)


I'm Barry!

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