Yesterday, the Irish government approved wording for a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment. Under the Eighth Amendment, Irish law recognizes the equal right to life of the preborn child and his or her mother. The referendum drawn up by ministers in a cabinet meeting on Thursday would repeal the Eighth Amendment and grant the Irish government power to legalize abortion for any reason up to birth.
Irish citizens will vote on the abortion referendum at the end of May.
The wording approved this week asks voters if they agree that “provision be made in law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.” If approved, preborn babies in Ireland would have no legal protection, and lawmakers could approve abortion at any time for any reason. The referendum wording comes on the heels of an Irish Supreme Court ruling that the constitution does not extend any rights to preborn babies except the right to life. Had the court ruled otherwise — that a child’s full constitutional rights exist in the womb, and do not only attach at birth — the referendum may have faced delay.
If repeal of the Eighth Amendment is approved, children will not have the right to life until birth. This would seem to be in violation of the Irish constitution, but the government is still proceeding with a vote on the referendum.
Government officials have indicated that if the referendum passes, they will approve unrestricted abortion before 12 weeks. Pro-life campaigners emphasize, however, that the referendum contains no limits, and once the youngest preborn babies are denied the right to life, all preborn babies have no legal protection. If voters reject the proposed referendum, the Eighth Amendment will remain unchanged, and Irish law will continue to recognize the equal right to life of the mother and her preborn child.
The Irish government plans to pass the Referendum Bill and formally establish the Referendum Commission on Friday. Reports indicate the planned date of the referendum will be May 25, 2018.