By Susy Hodges
With Ireland’s referendum on whether to lift a constitutional ban on most abortions fast approaching, Catholic Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin examines the importance of this upcoming referendum, how the issue at stake is playing out in Irish society and how pro-lifers and the Catholic Church are engaging with the electorate.
In the referendum taking place on May the 25th, Irish voters will be asked if they wish to repeal the eight amendment of the nation’s constitution which recognizes the equal right to life of both the mother and the child in her womb. Bishop Doran was interviewed by Susy Hodges.
"Particularly crucial" vote
The poll on May 25th is the latest in a series of referenda over the past decades on the issue of abortion in Ireland and according to Bishop Doran this upcoming referendum is a “particularly crucial” vote because of the legal impact if the ‘Yes’ camp prevails. He described how many people, both young and old, in his diocese are very much engaged in the ongoing debate and are going from "door to door" to campaign for a 'No' vote.
"Has caused divisions within families"
Abortion is always an emotive issue and Bishop Doran says the debate ahead of this referendum has been quite “emotional” and even irrational at times. At the same time he believes there is also a deep concern over the long-term moral and legal implications of this referendum if a majority vote in favour of lifting the constitutional ban on most abortions.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that a lot of Irish people have serious reservations about what the government is proposing,” he said.
Besides being emotive, Bishop Doran describes how the issue of whether to lift the ban on most abortions has split the nation in many different ways and has “certainly caused divisions within families” and communities.
“A lot of bullying going on”
Asked about why there are still so many undecided voters at this late stage, Bishop Doran predicts the referendum will be a closer vote than many expect. He says many young pro-lifers are “uncomfortable about stating their position openly” in today’s much more secularized society.
The bishop said he was told “there is a lot of bullying going on” and this has led many young people in the universities and elsewhere to keep quiet about their pro-life views during the current campaign ahead of the referendum.