The Irish vote for abortion

On Friday, May 25, 2018, the unborn child in Ireland lost his precious, constitutional right to life because the Irish people expunged that right from the Irish Constitution. Prior to May 25, the Irish Constitution, Article 40.3.3, otherwise known as the “Eighth Amendment,” read as follows:

The [Irish] State 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.

This subsection shall not limit freedom to travel between the State and another state.

This subsection shall not limit freedom to obtain and make available, in the State, subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state.[1]

As a consequence of the referendum of May 25, the Eighth Amendment has been replaced with the following wording: “Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.”

Thus, Ireland writes the right to abortion into its Constitution, removing the right to life for the unborn from the Constitution. When the infamous 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abor­tion in the USA, the justices, especially Henry Blackmun (1908-1999), had to read the right of abortion into the U.S. Constitution, something that is not actually in the U.S. Constitution. The Irish people, perhaps the first nation in the world to do so, have chosen to put the right to abortion into the Irish Constitution.

The last time the Irish electorate changed their Con­stitution was on May 22, 2015, when they redefined marriage to include same-sex relationships (the so- called “marriage equality” referendum). At that time, I wrote, “It will be much, much harder to convince the Irish people that women should be permitted to murder the unborn” (SB, vol. 91, no. 21; Sept. 15, 2015).

I was wrong—it was actually very easy. In fact, the “Yes” side enjoyed a landslide victory, while the “No” side suffered a shocking and humiliating defeat. The referendum passed by an over two-thirds majority of 66.4% to 33.6%, which translates as 1,429,981 to 723,632 votes, with a turnout of 64.1% of the elector­ate. That is a reversal of the 1983 referendum, when the people voted to include the Eighth Amendment by a similar margin of 67% to 33%, but with a lower turn­out of just over half the electorate (54%).

The victory was also decisive geographically and across all demographics: the “No” side expected to do better in the more religiously conservative, rural areas than in the more secularized, urban areas, but the pro­life side was crushed everywhere, except in one county, Donegal, in the northernmost of the Republic of Ireland, and even there the “No” side scraped a victory of only 51.9% or 189 votes. In the various Dublin constituencies the “Yes” vote was consistently above 70%. The youth vote was overwhelmingly pro-abortion, but the older generation followed suit. Men and women alike (but especially women) voted in huge numbers for abortion. One report suggested that the turnout among Irish women aged 18-24 years was a whopping 94%, the majority of whom presumably voted “Yes.”[2]

When news broke of the referendum result, a large crowd of people had gathered in Dublin: they danced and sang, they hugged one another, and they wept tears of joy that now they will have the right to abortion in Ireland. Irish Taoiseach (prime minister), Leo Varadkar called it “a quiet revolution,” adding in a speech:

For me it is also the day when we said No More. No more doctors telling their patients there is nothing that can be done for them in their own country. No more lonely journeys across the Irish Sea. No more stigma. The veil of secrecy is lifted. No more isolation. The burden of shame is gone.[3]

Ireland’s history of abortion

Many American readers might be unaware that until recently abortion was illegal in Ireland. The subject has a contentious history, which several high-profile cases will make clear.

First, in 1992, nine years after the passage of the Eighth Amendment, a 14-year-old Irish girl, named in court documents only as “X,” became pregnant through rape. She desired to travel to the UK to have an abortion, but the then-attorney general sought an injunction to protect the unborn child, which decision was then overturned by a ruling of the Irish Supreme Court. The court ruled that abortion is permissible only when there is a “real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including a real and substantial risk of suicide.” Sadly, “X” suffered a miscarriage after the ruling, so no abor­tion needed to be carried out. Although the Irish courts deemed the risk of suicide of the mother a valid reason for abortion, the Irish government at that time did not pass any further legislation.

No further laws were passed until the sad case of Savita Halappanavar, who died in Galway on October 28, 2012. Mrs. Halappanavar was an Indian dentist who was found to be miscarrying her seventeen-week baby. When she requested an abortion, she was refused because there was still a fetal heartbeat and, as one nurse alleged­ly remarked, the hospital could not provide an abortion because “this is a catholic country.” The Halappanavar case gave impetus to pro-abortion activists in Ireland, who viewed the Eighth Amendment as the cause of Savita Halappanavar’s death; but an investigation ruled that Mrs. Halappanavar died of sepsis, not for any lack of access to abortion. Savita Halappanavar was a victim of medical malpractice, not Ireland’s strict anti-abortion laws.[4] Following Mrs. Halappanavar’s death, however, the Irish government passed the “Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act” (2013), which allowed for abortion if there is a real and substantial threat to the life of the mother, including the threat of suicide.

The third case, the “Y case” of 2014 tested the new law. A foreign national, named only “Y” in legal documents, sought asylum in Ireland in March 2014. She claimed that she had been raped in her home country and requested an abortion, which was denied, and since she could not travel to the UK, she declared herself suicidal and went on hunger strike. The Irish courts ruled that she had no right to abortion under the 2013 law, and her baby was finally delivered in August 2014 against the wishes of the mother, who subsequently sued the Irish State.

PP vs. HSE was a fourth tragic case, in which a preg­nant mother suffered severe head trauma and was pronounced brain-dead in December 2014. The medical staff placed “PP,” who was twelve weeks pregnant at the time, on life support against the wishes of her family, in order possibly to preserve the life of the unborn child un­til it could be delivered. The family sued for the right to turn off her life support, an act that led to the death of the mother and her unborn child. The Court ruled

that the ongoing somatic support for the mother is causing her body increasingly to break down and that overwhelming infection from various sources will, as a matter of near certainty, bring the life of the unborn to an end well before any opportunity for a viable delivery of a live child could take place.[5]

Tragically, both the woman and her unborn child died on December 27, 2014.

The “Repeal the Eighth” campaign

As reported in the SB (vol. 94, no 8; January 15, 2018), an Oireachtas Eireann committee (or committee of the Irish legislature) recommended on December 13, 2017 the repeal of the Eighth Amendment and unrestricted abortion up to twelve weeks. The twelve-week limit was chosen because of the large number of Irish women who take unregulated, and until recently illegal, abortion pills in Ireland, seriously risking their health in so doing.

The “No” side hoped that the Irish people would balk at the Irish government’s proposal of unrestricted abor­tion up to twelve weeks. This proposal was support­ed by high-ranking Irish politicians, including the Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar, the Tanaiste (deputy) Simon Coveney, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, and (ironically) the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone. Influential voices from stage and screen, such as actor Liam Neeson and rock band U2 with their frontman Bono, added their support to the “Repeal the Eighth” movement.

The “Yes” side concentrated on having Irish women tell their stories: women who had been forced to travel to England to avail of abortion services; women who had been raped; women who had received the devastat­ing diagnosis of a so-called “fatal fetal abnormality”; and, of course, Savita Halappanavar, whose face was featured on posters all across Ireland and whose parents advocated for a “Yes” vote in her memory. (In fact, the law legalizing abortion might be called “Savita’s law” in her honor). Such women said that they felt aban­doned by their own country.

Their stories resonated with the Irish people, who were not told what abortion actually is. Pro-abortion activists are always careful to avoid describing an abor­tion procedure, and they are equally careful to concen­trate on the minority of difficult cases (less than 2%) in­stead of mentioning that most abortions are performed on healthy, but unwanted, babies conceived as a result of consensual intercourse, not rape.[6] The “Yes” side’s slogans of “Care, compassion, and change” and “Trust women” had a greater impact than the “No” side’s plea to “Love Both.” In fact, the Irish diaspora, especially young people, flocked in droves from far afield to vote in the referendum, which is what they also did in 2015 when they voted for “same-sex marriage.”[7]

Then too, during the campaign the Roman Catholic Church failed to make any significant impact. Rome’s moral authority in Ireland is dead, for the Irish people will no longer listen to celibate clergy whose treatment of children and subsequent cover-up by the Catholic hi­erarchy have been scandalous. Meanwhile, the Evangelical and Reformed churches in Ireland are so small that their voice was hardly noticeable.[8]

As soon as the result was announced, the call was is­sued to change the law in Northern Ireland, which now remains the only place in the British Isles where abor­tion is still illegal. Two prominent politicians, Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill, held up a sign, “The North is next.” British Prime Minister, Theresa May, whose fragile government is propped up by the pro-life Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland, stressed that any legislation in Northern Ire­land is a matter for the legislative assembly there, which is currently in abeyance. The law in Northern Ireland, therefore, is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future, but we can expect many women from Northern Ireland to travel south.

Make no mistake—abortion is murder. God’s judg­ment is on a nation that murders the unborn. In fact, this decision of the Irish people is in itself judgment, for God is hardening the people of Ireland and giving them over to greater expressions of sin (Rom. 1:24-32).

May 25, 2018 was not a day for jubilation, but a day for mourning.

“Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law” (Ps. 119:136); “O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy” (Hab. 3:2).

[1] (accessed June 1, 2018).

[2] (accessed June 1, 2018).

[3] (accessed June 1, 2018).

[4] (accessed June 1, 2018).

[5] (accessed June 1, 2018).

[6] The (British) National Health Choices website defines abor­tion as “the medical process of ending a pregnancy so that it does’t result in the birth of a baby.” The same website explains some of the medical procedures, carefully avoiding the word “baby.” “[Vaccuum or suction aspiration] involves inserting a tube through the entrance of the womb…the pregnancy is then removed using suction.” (Actually, a baby is dismembered and then sucked out of his mother’s womb—MMcG). “[Dilation and evacuation] involves inserting special instruments called forceps through the cervix and into the womb to remove the pregnancy.” (Actually, a baby is removed piece by piece from his mother’s womb, often after being poisoned or given a lethal injection. This is a wicked act perpetrated against an innocent, defenseless child—MMcG). Other surgical options for late-term abortions are even more grotesque, but are rarely explained to the one seek­ing an abortion. As far as possible, the procedure is described euphemistically, while the victim of the procedure, the baby, is depersonalized ( (ac­cessed June 1, 2018).

[7] (accessed June 1, 2018).

[8]   The Limerick Reformed Fellowship sponsored a speech, “The Bible and Abortion,” on May 19, 2018,