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What Ireland’s Abortion Referendum is Really About

This year Ireland will hold a referendum on the issue of abortion. The date has not yet been set but the vote will probably take place in May. Since 1983, enshrined in Article 8 of the Irish Constitution, there has been a constitutional ban on abortions taking place in the Irish Republic. This prohibition was the result of a referendum that took place that year with the resultant Article 8 stating: “The 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.”

The referendum that will occur later this year is about whether to repeal Article 8. If so repealed, it will allow for the full legalization of abortion to occur.

In the Irish Republic today, abortion is outlawed in all but one exceptional circumstance: threat to the life of the mother. This is the fourth referendum that the Irish Republic has held on abortion. These referenda, court cases and legislative modifications have chipped away at the outright ban on abortion articulated in 1983. The final excising of Article 8 from the Constitution will, in effect, remove the main obstacle to abortion on demand, which will then, sooner rather than later, become a reality within the Irish state.

Nevertheless, the debate underway in Ireland is about much more than simply abortion. It is not just a legal prohibition that is being voted on so much as on what that constitutional protection represents.

Read more at Crisis Magazine. 

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