The issue at the heart of this referendum is whether we are going to introduce abortion-on-demand.
This was recently reiterated by 200 Irish lawyers, including three former High Court judges – two of whom formerly chaired the Referendum Commission, with the other being a former Judge of the European Court of Justice. All of them signed a statement opposing the removal of all constitutional rights from the unborn.
“It is clear,” they wrote, “that what is being proposed is not simply abortion in exceptional cases but a wide-ranging right to abortion.”
The importance of the Eighth Amendment was made more obvious than ever when the Supreme Court recently ruled that the unborn child has no rights in our Constitution other than the right to life.
Remove the Eighth, and we remove all constitutional rights and protections from the unborn.
What’s even more worrying though is the radical new abortion law which the Government is planning to implement should the Eighth Amendment be repealed.
Under the new law, abortion-on-demand will be available up to 12 weeks for any reason whatsoever.
The humanity of an unborn child in the earliest stages has been left out of the conversation entirely. Science teaches us, after all, that at 12 weeks, a baby has all her vital organs, her heart is beating, and she can kick, move, and yawn.
Even worse, Head 4 will make abortion legal for the first six months of pregnancy on vaguely-defined mental health grounds, which is similar to the grounds used to justify over 97 per cent of the 190,000 abortions which take place in England and Wales each year.
When British politicians legalised terminations to protect the “physical or mental health” of vulnerable women, nobody thought that this would lead to a situation where each year in Britain, one baby is aborted for every four who are born.
But this is exactly what happened. And it is what could well occur here, if we follow Britain’s path by introducing abortion-on-demand.
Abortion campaigners have repeatedly tried to claim that the Eighth Amendment endangers women, in spite of the fact that it is already legal to terminate a pregnancy when the mother’s life is in danger, not to mention the fact that Ireland has had a consistently outstanding record in maternal care. According to the World Health Organisation, we are a safer country for women to give birth in than Britain, France, the Netherlands or the USA: all of which have abortion-on-demand.
This persistent flow of misinformation from those advocating abortion – such as Dr. Peter Boylan – has led to four former Chairmen of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists stating that they are horrified at the false claims which been made about their profession.
“Ireland is a very safe country in which to be pregnant,” they wrote. “The Eighth Amendment does not prevent Irish women receiving care of the highest possible standard. This is why our maternal death rate is so low. Recent Maternal Death Enquiry reports confirm that Ireland is one of the safest places in the world to be pregnant.”
By protecting the rights of mothers and their children within the Constitution, and by ensuring that mothers and babies are cared for in our medical system, we have helped to save countless unborn lives, while also making Ireland one of the safest countries in the world for a woman to give birth.
If we remove the Eighth Amendment on Friday, we are at risk of sacrificing so much good work, along with the lives of thousands of our future citizens.
That is why we are voting No.
Dr Conor Hanley is a lecturer in Law at NUI Galway. Dr Frances Neenan is a paediatrician.