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A lot not done, a lot still to do

Read more about: Fianna Fail, Referenda, Social Policy, Women's Rights     Print This Post

Micheál Martin as Minister for Health & Children, in the Dail on 25 October 2001 to push through the legislation for the 25th Amendment to the Constitution –

The purpose of the Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill is to provide a secure and effective constitutional basis for a legislative approach to the protection of human life in pregnancy. The proposals are designed to ensure that women can continue to receive all necessary medical treatment during pregnancy, while at the same time ensuring maximum protection of the unborn and maintaining a clear prohibition on abortion.

The mechanism proposed is that a referendum will be held to approve the insertion into Article 46 of the Constitution of the text of proposed amendments to Article 40.3 of the Constitution. These are (i) a new subsection 4º in Article 40.3 to provide that the life of the unborn in the womb will be protected in accordance with the Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy Act, 2002; and (ii) a new subsection 5º in Article 40.3 to provide that any future proposal to amend or repeal the Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy Act, 2002 will have to be approved by the people in a referendum … The new law will, therefore, define “abortion” in a way that clearly excludes such ethically legitimate procedures from being termed an abortion for the purposes of our criminal law. Doctors may provide any medical treatment which, in their opinion, is necessary to safeguard the life of a pregnant woman. The doctor’s opinion must be formed in good faith and there is an explicit requirement that regard be had to the need to preserve unborn human life, where practicable. It is important to emphasise that doctors, when treating a pregnant woman, make every effort to safeguard not only her life, but that of her baby. This will not change after the passage of the Act.

Questions for the current leader of Fianna Fail given the context of the Savita Halappanavar case: do you still believe that legislation to cover what doctors can do in the case of life-threatening pregnancies needs to be embedded in the Constitution, and do you believe that the formula you outlined in 2001 for guiding such treatment is still relevant?

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5 Responses to “A lot not done, a lot still to do”

  1. # Comment by Veronica Nov 23rd, 2012 18:11

    The 2002 referendum failed – by about 15,000 votes, if I recall correctly – because it was unsatisfactory and therefore opposed by both pro-choice and anti-abortion lobbies. One thing that was clearly wrong with it was that it would have not been able to remove the so-called ‘grey’ areas that cause problems for the medical profession and by implication, may cost women their lives. In fact, as drafted, it might conceivably have made things worse.

    The best course of action at the present time would be to remove Article 40.3 from our constitution; replace it (if deemed necessary) with a general clause on the right to life and for the Oireacthas to legislate on an abortion regime for this state appropriate to the 21st century. There’s nothing to stop this government proceeding along these lines. They have an overwhelming parliamentary majority for one thing. For another, it shouldn’t be so difficult for them to reach all party agreement on the this as the best way forward in the interests of our society, since it is clear that the geenral mood of teh public is one of being thoroughly fed up with the obfuscation and shilly shallying around this issue by all the political parties in the past twenty years.

    I’ve lived with the 1983 clause for nigh on thirty years. Now I live in fear of what the uncertainty it engenders might mean in the lives of my own children, and extended family, who were babes in arms or not even born when PLAC began their campaign in the early 1980s, and are now in their own child-bearing years. Nor do I want to live in the shadow of this ill-conceived and potentially disastrous provision for the rest of my life.

    It’s time to cut the politicking around the abortion issue; and for the political class as a whole to do what they’re already very well paid to do – take responsibility, provide leadership and legislate.

  2. # Comment by EddieL Nov 24th, 2012 00:11

    We cannot avoid the truth, so it is worth repeating.
    With Ireland being one of the safest places for mothers and unborn children along with advances in medical practices over the last 20 years this is obviously a last-ditch effort to bring abortion into Ireland.

    With two referenda passed in the last year The government obviously feels is on a roll and there is no doublt that they are working hard to introduce a “palatable” abortion law into Ireland.
    This is all part of a wider agenda and there is a war going on over two versions of human rights with the insistence that we dump all Constitutional and legal support for absolute individual human rights that Irish people have lived and died with for over a thousands years – the right to God, the right to the truth, the right to life, the right to a natural family and the right to ownership of property.
    And they want to replace these with a new version of human rights based an atheistic individualism which seeks to replace religion with science, bans God from all aspects of life, replacing Him with a system that puts the seelfishness of the individual over the interests of the common good and society at large.
    All this plays into the hands of those who wish to exploit us for if we accept abortion we will accept anything.

  3. # Comment by queenie Nov 24th, 2012 18:11

    “For another, it shouldn’t be so difficult for them to reach all party agreement on this”

    Veronica, alas this is where you are sadly mistaken.
    The opposition will support everything in principle, and nothing practically but one thing all politicians will agree on is that no way is anyone going to suffer another referendum. I agree the whole lot should be deleted from the constitution but the political reality is no one in Dail Eireann will go there. The pro=lifers are just too dangerous, and the pro-choicers refuse to acknowledge how difficult this is for politicians. 56,000 phone calls is a lot of intimidation…

  4. # Comment by Veronica Nov 26th, 2012 07:11


    Indeed, yes; our elected representatives would be aghast at the idea of a referendum to remove Article 40.3.3. But it is their indecision that has made them continuously vulnerable to the kind of intimidation that 56,000 phone calls represent. As it stands, that clause is unworkable. No matter what legislation or regulation this Government may introduce in response to the Expert Report, the wording of the constitutional clause means that inevitably more ‘grey areas’ will emerge at some later date and the whole sorry saga will flare up again. Twice over the past twenty years the Irish electorate has rejected proposals that would have rowed back on the X case judgement. In the wake of the current controversy over the death of Savita Halappanavar, the government might find that there is a majority of reasonable, sane and sensible people who are sick up to the back teeth of this ill-conceived amendment and would happily vote to get rid of it.

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