The Irish Eighth Amendment & its Future | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

The Irish Eighth Amendment & its Future

Comment writer Lisa Mcgrady discusses the upcoming Abortion Referendum in Ireland

'For some, politics is a bad word.' This was part of the first speech by the newly elected Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. He talked about his new role in the Irish political system and how he believed 'in the power of politics… as a way of solving problems and helping to build a better future.'

With this in mind, Ireland’s social and cultural change has been rapid over the years. With the recent Irish election in which Varadkar was elected, journalists noted how fast Ireland was progressing towards a new wave of social change for the emerald island. With him being the first openly gay Taoiseach, it seemed Ireland’s new leader did embody the change that it was voting now for. Additionally, with Varadkar holding a referendum on abortion in 2018, it appears he is maintaining that message of change which many Irish citizens seem to agree to nowadays.

This also comes after Varadkar visited Canada, where it was reported, he and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talked of abortion in Ireland. According to the Irish Times, Trudeau declared the choice of abortion for women as a 'fundamental right.' Varadkar replied that the Irish people would decide on whether to amend the Eighth Amendment which currently forbids abortion. The Taoiseach has not publicly declared which way he will campaign until the wording of the referendum has been declared. This has caused a level of controversy among some Irish parliamentarians who, such as Ruth Coppinger, have labelled Varadkar as having 'more positions on abortion than coloured socks.'

What we have to remember is that women have only had the right to vote for less than a century and in that time, we have seen shifts in gender equality

However, no matter what angle a person takes on abortion, the topic still surrounds numerous sensitive issues. These issues are emotionally, religiously, traditionally and politically centred. For some women, this is a stage in the fight for women’s rights and equality, and like Trudeau said, a 'fundamental right.'

What we have to remember is that women have only had the right to vote for less than a century and in that time, we have seen shifts in gender equality.However, that equality is still progressing and although abortion is allowed in some western nations, as of today, it is not in the Republic of Ireland (unless the women's life is at threat due to childbearing).

Recently, many gathered in Dublin on their annual March for Choice. This was in light of Varadkar announcing the upcoming referendum next year. As of now, women are forbidden to receive an abortion in Ireland and face prosecution unless the pregnancy is endangering the woman’s life.As of now, women are forbidden to receive an abortion in Ireland and face prosecution unless the pregnancy is endangering the woman's life. However, women are not persecuted if they travel to the UK for the abortion procedures. Financially and emotionally, this has deep repercussions for Irish women who seek to have an abortion and as such, is a major reason and motivation as to why the campaigners for choice are not backing down.

As of now, women are forbidden to receive an abortion in Ireland and face prosecution unless the pregnancy is endangering the woman’s life

Celebrities who are known to support the pro-choice movement include Hozier, Cillian Murphy (who have been seen at marches) and Aisling Bea with many more showing their support through social media. With the issue centring around political law, one campaigner noted how they in the recent election would 'be voting for [the politicians] who have the courage to right this wrong.'

So for now the wording of the referendum on Irish abortion has to be phrased carefully and a date set for the vote. However, this in itself is causing controversy as people are insisting the vote does not clash with student’s exams as their vote will be crucial to the definitive binding result.

Uncertainty exists for the time being on the subject of the Eight Amendment, with many holding on to the notion of Varadkar that politics can be seen 'as a way of solving problems and helping to build a better future.'

History and Political Science student. Keen photographer



Published

10th October 2017 at 12:00 pm



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