Irish vote overwhelmingly to remove constitutional amendment that recognizes unborn's equal rights
John McGuirk, spokesman for the Save The 8th campaign, said his group would fight legislation that will be introduced now that voters have rejected the 8th Amendment of the constitution, which guaranteed equal rights for mothers and their unborn children.
At 6:13 local time Saturday evening, Returning Officer Barry Ryan delivered the results at Dublin Castle: the Republic of Ireland has voted overwhelmingly to overturn the 8th Amendment by 66.4 percent to 33.6 percent, the BBC reported. The only constituency to vote against repealing the amendment was Donegal, with 51.9 percent voting against the change.
“Shortly, legislation will be introduced that will allow babies to be killed in our country,” McGuirk told the Irish Catholic newspaper. “We will oppose that legislation. … Every time an unborn child has his or her life ended in Ireland, we will oppose that, and make our voices known. Abortion was wrong yesterday. It remains wrong today. The constitution has changed, but the facts have not.”
Kathy Sinnott, a former member of the European Parliament and an organizer of this year’s Rosary on the Coast, noted in an email to Aleteia that this is the “first time a country has imposed the curse of abortion on itself by popular demand—and in the fundamental rights section of the constitution insert what is effectively a ‘right to abortion.'”
McGuirk described the result of Friday’s referendum as a “tragedy of historic proportions.” He said in a tweet Saturday that the 8th Amendment “did not create an unborn child’s right to life—it merely acknowledged it. The right exists, independent of what a majority says.”
The Irish government has proposed allowing abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy with later terminations allowed in some cases.
“We now have to hold the government to what they have said, that they want to see a situation where abortion will be rare,” leading anti-abortion campaigner Cora Sherlock told Reuters.
Dr. Ruth Cullen of the LoveBoth campaign told the Irish Catholic that Friday’s vote represents a “sea-change on abortion in Ireland and sadly pave[s] the way for an abortion regime that has nothing to do with healthcare and everything to do with abortion on demand.”
Cullen called it “most regrettable” that Irish Prime Minister, or Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, Minister for Health Simon Harris and “some leading medics received a free pass from scrutiny in pushing for abortion, thereby depriving the public the opportunity to hear them defend their pro-abortion positions.”
“We will hold the Taoiseach to his promise that repeal would only lead to abortion in very restrictive circumstances,” Cullen said. “No doubt many people voted for repeal based on the Taoiseach’s promises in this regard.”
Varadkar, who campaigned for repeal of the amendment, told the BBC that he felt a major reason for the outcome was the “courageous women and men” who were willing to tell their stories of how the 8th Amendment adversely affected them.
Requests for comment from the Catholic Bishops Conference of Ireland have not yet been answered. The conference is scheduled to meet for their quarterly plenary meeting next week and is expected to issue a statement then.
Archbishop Eamon Martin, Primate of All-Ireland, is expected to address the issue during a homily at the national Marian shrine of Knock on Sunday.
Reaction from Irish pro-lifers was mournful.
“This is a difficult day. We are all very upset by the result, and will take some time to grieve,” said Wexford musician Carla Maria Corless in an email to Aleteia. Her band, the Mustard Seeds, had promoted a pro-life song Together Beat Our Hearts in the months leading up to the referendum. “But, we remember that Good Friday is followed by Easter Sunday, and we place our trust in Our Lord and Our Lady,” Corless said. “We want to say thank you to all the amazing men and women who campaigned very hard, taking time out of their normal routine to stand up for what is right. We are sure that these efforts have not been in vain and we will not give up Hope.”
Reaction from American pro-life organizations was equally regretful.
Jeanne Mancini, President of March for Life, commented: “We are deeply saddened to learn that many Irish people voted against love and life by repealing the 8th amendment. Americans know from experience that there will be many grave and irreversible consequences to this decision, including the loss of precious lives. A study released this week shows that legalizing abortion greatly increases the number of children whose lives are terminated in the womb. Though they are the first, unborn children are not the only victims; abortion harms mothers too. Life is the empowering decision. We grieve for the great loss this beautiful country will endure and we pray that they find a way to reverse this unfortunate decision.”
Catherine Glenn Foster, President and CEO of Americans United for Life, recalled that her organization played a pivotal role in the creation of the 8th Amendment, in 1979.
“Today, the AUL legal team is saddened that the people of Ireland have paved the way for abortion on demand in their country,” Foster said. “AUL offers our support to the pro-life people of Ireland—we continue to stand with you and thank you for your valiant efforts to defend life. If the global pro-life movement continues to work together to advance the cause of life, we have every faith that we will see a day when everyone is welcomed in life and protected in law.”
“A majority in Ireland cast their consciences to the side as they cast their votes to legalize the killing of preborn human babies,” said American Life League president Judie Brown. “We pray that Ireland returns to its strong Christian tradition that recognizes the inherent dignity of every human being. We are heartbroken for the Emerald Isle that once gleamed as a beacon for life as that light has now been tragically extinguished by the culture of death.”
Ashley McGuire, a Senior Fellow with The Catholic Association, an American pro-life group, charged that the Repeal the 8th Campaign was a “classic example of ideological colonization: it was imported and funded by extreme, pro-abortion special interest groups from outside of Ireland who could not tolerate the reality that Ireland proved that women don’t need abortion to flourish and thrive.”
McGuire’s colleague, Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, Legal Advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation, commented, “While the country’s constitution no longer completely safeguards her unborn children, its people must now demand limits on the practice of abortion. We urge the Irish to respect God’s gift of life.”
Human Life International in Ireland issued a statement Saturday calling the repeal of the 8th Amendment a “hollow and short-term win for the global pro-death forces.”
“There has been an unprecedented amount of prayer and fasting in the build-up to this moment from the remnant of the faithful in this country, and around the world,” said Patrick McCrystal, Executive Director. “We have repented. We have wept for the sins of our people, and we are convinced that the Lord has heard our prayers. … We must acknowledge our failures in the past, and preach the truth of God’s plan for love, marriage and family with increased boldness and power.”
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