Ireland’s referendum on its abortion ban

Feb 02, 2018

THIS week’s announcement that Ireland will hold a referendum in May on whether to repeal its constitutional ban on abortion is a sign of a huge shift in Irish society. In 1983 67% of its voters had endorsed a constitutional amendment that, in effect, banned abortion entirely, even in cases of rape, incest and fetal abnormality so severe that the baby could not live—and even when a termination was essential to save the woman’s life. Abortion in Ireland had already been illegal for more than a century, but anti-abortion activists had wanted a constitutional ban for fear that the law might in future be relaxed. Thirty-five years later not only is Leo Varadkar, the prime minister and leader of the centre-right Fine Gael party, recommending a repeal, he is also campaigning for abortion to be legal up to the 12th week of pregnancy.

Polls suggest that 60% of the Irish population, and a clear majority of parliamentarians, will vote to scrap the anti-abortion amendment, the constitution’s eighth. In the intervening years the Catholic church,...Continue reading


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