Fintan O’Toole: 8th Amendment demands punishment for women

Constitutional ban means Ireland too extreme even for mainstream social conservatives

The referendum on the Eighth Amendment will be held on May 25th.

The referendum on the Eighth Amendment will be held on May 25th.

I’m not sure people who want to defend the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution know how extreme their position is. Extreme, that is to say, not by the standards of those of us who always opposed it and would like it to be repealed, but even by the standards of mainstream social conservatism.

The Eighth is, in one crucial respect, on the lunatic fringe of anti-abortion activism. This is because, as has been made clear in recent years, it does not merely outlaw abortion in all but a very small range of circumstances. It does something else, something that most sensible conservatives regard as repugnant – it demands severe punishment for women who have abortions. There is no way around this: while the Eighth is in place, Ireland is committed to treating abortion, not just as a moral wrong, but as a crime more serious than, for example, child rape.

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