The Eighth Amendment - Repeal Eight
Article 40.3.3, known as the Eighth Amendment, was voted into the Irish Constitution by referendum in 1983. The amendment states: ' The states 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.
Why was the Eighth Amendment introduced?
Abortion has been illegal in Ireland since the foundation of the State. The British 1861 Offences Against Person Act, which imposed a criminal prohibition on abortion which was punishable by penal servitude (later becoming life in prison), became part of the legislature of the Irish Free State in 1922 following independence from Britain. While abortion remained illegal in Ireland, there were dramatic changes to abortion laws in Britain, Europe and the United States. In 1967 the British Parliament passed the Abortion Act, providing for a range of circumstances in which abortions can legally be carried out. Following the legalisation of abortion in Britain the numbers of Irish women travelling to England increased significantly, reaching 3,600 in 1981 – the same year that the Irish anti-abortion lobby group, the Pro-Life Amendment Campaign (P.L.A.C.) was launched.
In 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the famous Roe v. Wade case that women had the right to abortion under the U.S. Constitution. The decision built on earlier case law around privacy and contraception. The same year that Roe was decided in the US, the Irish Supreme Court had held in McGee v. Attorney General that a right to marital privacy was implicit in the Constitution, and therefore that married couples were permitted to import contraceptives for their own use. Both these cases led to fears among the conservative right in Ireland that abortion could be eventually become legal in Ireland too and by the began to campaign for a constitutional referendum to reinforce the ban on abortion.Read Full Article