Cautious welcome for new Taoiseach’s 2018 Repeal referendum

Referendum on the 8th Amendment could be a step forward for Ireland

Speaking today in response to the announcement of a referendum to take place in 2018, Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) spokesperson Linda Kavanagh said, “We’d obviously welcome it, however we reserve judgement until the wording of the referendum is revealed. We fear that it will offer only very limited abortion access and repeat the failures of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. We need broad-based legislation so that real and realistic access is given, otherwise thousands will still travel or break the law by importing and taking abortion pills.”

“Varadkar was enthusiastic about the Citizens’ Assembly until it recommended broad-based access, and then he immediately started undermining those recommendations. We know from this week’s figures released by the UK Department of Health that thousands travel every year. We also know that another thousand take illegal abortion pills. This will continue until we have a referendum to repeal the 8th in favour of free, safe, legal and accessible abortion access.”

Ms. Kavanagh further added, “Restrictions-based access will not work in Ireland. When we look at the case revealed earlier in the week of the teen detained under the Mental Health Act, we can only conclude that her psychiatrist essentially used the Act as a tool to force this child into continuing an unwanted pregnancy because of their own personal beliefs. Decisions must be placed in the hands of rights holders and not service providers.”

The Abortion Rights Campaign would like to remind the new Taoiseach that the referendum and the options it will offer voters should not be dictated by his own personal beliefs, but rather, by what the people of Ireland want for themselves, their loved ones, and their country. They want individuals to have a choice. The Citizen’s Assembly was established by the government with the intention of discerning people’s opinions when they are given the opportunity to truly consider the issue. The Abortion Rights Campaign has said from the start that the Citizens’ Assembly was a stalling tactic, so the Taoiseach’s slapdash approach to its recommendations is therefore predictable and unsurprising.

Until Ireland has free, safe and legal abortion access, cases like Ms. Whelan’s, Ms. Mellet’s and Ms. Y’s will continue to surface in both the courts and the media, costing Ireland thousands upon thousands of euros in redress payments. The current situation is unsustainable, but replacing it may lead to little or no improvement if the new amendment includes discriminatory restrictions.