By John Waters
“I am deeply grateful to and have huge admiration for the great number of people who worked against the odds to protect the right to life, right across the country” said Bishop Kevin Doran of the Diocese of Elphin.
Ireland repeals abortion restriction in constitution
The Republic of Ireland held a referendum on 25th May on the question of repealing the 8th Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland. The 8th Amendment restricted abortion to cases where the mother’s life was in danger as a result of her pregnancy. The referendum voted 66% in favour of repealing the law.
As Chair of the Irish Bishop’s conference committee on Bioethics, Bishop Doran was following the referendum campaign closely. He particularly highlighted the lack of political support for the No campaign.
No political support for opposition
“It’s important to remember that they had no political support, with the exception of one or two members of parliament. So the scales were weighted very much against the attempt to protect the right to life,” noted Bishop Kevin.
The Bishop admitted that the Irish Church was deeply saddened by the result of the vote and surprised at the size of the majority with which the Yes vote won. Indeed he noted that negotiating with the government concerning the implementation of abortion laws could be very difficult.
“The government’s proposals were on the table before the referendum. It was perfectly clear to people what was being proposed and it is the most liberal abortion law in Europe.”
Mothers and babies are the heart of the matter
Pointing to the fact that, over the last 35 years, an estimated 150,000 Irish women have flown to England to have abortions, Bishop Doran said that many families have been touched by the issue of abortion, leading perhaps to an attitude of “if they’re going to do it in England then they might as well do here.” Bishop Doran believes that this is a significant factor in why the Yes campaign won the referendum.
Concluding with a reflection on the future direction of the abortion debate in Ireland, Bishop Doran pointed to the need to keep support for both mother and baby at the heart of the matter.
“I think there’s a failure to recognise the question of the integrity of what we decide in our own country and a failure to recognise that the best response for women, as well as for babies, is to offer them the sort of support, both emotional and practical, that abortion is not their first choice."