77% say limited abortion right should be provided
An overwhelming majority of voters, 77 per cent, believe that abortion should be permitted in the State in limited circumstances, according to the latest Irish Times/MRBI opinion poll.
Only 18 per cent of voters believe that abortion should not be permitted in any circumstances. Fewer than one-quarter of voters, 23 per cent, think the Oireachtas should legislate in line with the court decisions in the X and recent C cases. A total of 49 per cent want abortion legislation to be approved first by the electorate.
More than three in every five voters, 62 per cent, believe the High Court made the right decision in allowing the 13-year-old rape victim to travel to England for an abortion. A quarter, 26 per cent, believe the court made the wrong decision and 13 per cent don't know. Some 55 per cent of voters, with majorities across the supporters of all parties, think the medical profession should provide abortion facilities.
The poll was conducted among a sample of 1,000 electors at 100 sampling points throughout all constituencies in the State last Saturday, three days after the girl at the centre of the C case had an abortion in England.
The significant shift in public attitudes to abortion indicated in the poll may make it possible for the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, to put a successful referendum to voters in 1999 making abortion available in this State. He has begun the process of inviting submissions for a Green Paper which will set out the various constitutional/legislative options next year.
The poll shows that only 18 per cent of voters believe abortion should not be permitted in any circumstances. One in five Fianna Fail supporters, 21 per cent, hold this view.
Asked specifically about the provision of abortion facilities in Ireland, 35 per cent think abortion should be permitted when the mother's life is at risk. A further 14 per cent believe that abortion should be permitted when the mother's health is at risk.
A total of 28 per cent hold that an abortion should be provided to those who need it. Some 5 per cent are undecided.
Some interesting options are provided for the Government on the course of action which should be followed on abortion. Almost half of voters agree with the Taoiseach's view that the abortion issue should be referred to the people.
A total of 49 per cent believe that the Oireachtas should legislate for abortion but only if the Bill has been approved first by the electorate. This view is equally shared by urban and rural voters.
Some 23 per cent believe the Oireachtas should legislate in line with the decisions made in the courts. In the X and C cases, the courts decided that the girls could travel to England for abortions because there was a real and substantial risk that they could commit suicide.
Only 16 per cent of voters want the 1983 wording in the Constitution to be removed to go back to the legal ban which was in force here since the 1860s. Some 12 per cent are undecided.
A substantial majority of 55 per cent, including 52 per cent of Fianna Fail supporters, believe the medical profession in Ireland should provide abortion facilities. Some 36 per cent disagree and 9 per cent don't know.