Let reason, not anger, be the guiding light on ‘The Eighth’

Eighth: An issue affecting the health and lives of women and all children.
Eighth: An issue affecting the health and lives of women and all children.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

THERE is a serious inclination to switch radio channels when the next item flagged for discussion is the Eighth Amendment but the other evening as I travelled out from the city, I ‘stuck it out’ and listened to a report from a pro-life meeting in Mayo on Radio One.

The sincerity and commitment of those taking part in the meeting and the debate was without question but as the report was coming to an end one speaker spoke of treating this issue as ‘a war’, and I thought to myself this was the kind of language that would spur me to vote the other way.

To a large extent, the debate on whether or not to repeal the Eighth Amendment (Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution), has been . . . so far . . . conducted with a certain degree of moderation, and so it should, as we are dealing with the most serious and sensitive of life and death issues for both women and babies.

Those of us, of a certain age profile, will remember the referendum of September, 1983, when the Eighth Amendment made its way into the Irish Constitution at a time when Garret Fitzgerald and Charlie Haughey were jockeying for power in Ireland.

Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil ended up in a strange kind of way supporting the Eighth Amendment but there were strong minority voices ‘on the left’ who warned of potential consequences for women if ‘The Eighth’ was passed. In the end, the vote in favour was very strong – 67% to 33% – but in the following years, disturbing cases began to emerge.

The most notable of those was the ‘X case’ in 1992 where a 14-year-old girl became pregnant after being raped and had initially been stopped by the High Court when she sought to go to England to get an abortion. That decision was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court, prompting more referendums in November of 1992.

The results of those referendums were quite decisive. The people rejected by 65% to 35% a proposal (12th Amendment) to insert in the Constitution the clause that a suicide possibility by the mother could not be taken as sufficient reason to justify an abortion.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.