Referendum on the Eighth Amendment


Sir, – If men were tasked with the physical process of bearing, delivering and rearing children, there would be no campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment. There would be no provision of this sort in the Constitution to begin with, because men would have ensured that the Constitution would trust them to do the right thing by their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, as determined by the male species.

And women would be expected to trust them to make responsible, mature and considered decisions as to their sexual behaviour and its consequences. Trust is the word that underpins the whole debate. Why don’t those politicians who are huffing and puffing take a leaf out of Micheál Martin’s book and show some trust in women?

I in no way support Fianna Fáil but I am in full admiration of Mr Martin’s ability to get off the fence, throw off the fear of a belt of the crozier, and allow women the trust they deserve.

No woman wants to have an abortion and no man involved wants to see a woman go through this traumatic and painful experience, and so we have to set up a strong and accessible framework for responsible sexual behaviour and contraception.

But my blood runs cold when I hear the absolutist pronunciations of the so-called pro-life brigade whose interest never seems to go beyond their concern for the unborn to the terrible deprivations and neglect of little children unlucky to be born into dysfunctional homes.

Equally I am sick and tired of politicians who really don’t seem to understand what conscience is. As a local politician for 10 years, all too often I saw public representatives wrestling with their consciences and losing the battle very easily. What they don’t seem to understand – and this is possibly because they have spent far too long looking at right and wrong in terms of what the church instructed – is that their conscience is just for them as individuals.

Every woman has a right to her own conscience and no one should try to legislate to control that. We have to trust, we have to understand that women have a right to follow their own conscience , and that it is a huge conceit on the part of any political or citizen, male or female, to feel they can act as the moral brigade. – Yours, etc,


Naas, Co Kildare.

Sir, – Niall Behan of the Irish Family Planning Association says that Switzerland, which allows abortion up to 12 weeks, has “among the lowest rates in Europe” (February 5th). It is interesting that Mr Behan chose not to quote the actual Swiss statistics, which paint a far less benign picture.

In 2015 there were 10,255 abortions and 84,840 live births recorded in Switzerland, a rate of abortion of 11 per cent of all pregnancies. This compares to rates of 5 per cent in Ireland and 1 per cent in Poland, countries in which abortion is banned in all but the most limited circumstances.

The only reason why the rate in Switzerland is “among the lowest rates in Europe” is because European abortion rates are so horrendously high, standing at 32 per cent in Sweden, 21 per cent in the UK and 17 per cent in Italy. France, which also has a 12-week limit in place, has an abortion rate of 22 per cent.

Mr Varadkar said last week that under the Government’s proposals, abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare”. His legendary spinning abilities will need to be stretched to their limit if he intends to convince voters that something which happens up to 22 per cent of the time qualifies as being “rare”. – Yours, etc,


Harolds Cross, Dublin 6W.

Sir, – An aspect of this debate which has received scant attention so far is the question of what rights health services staff will have to exercise a conscientious objection to participating in the delivery of abortion services in the event of the introduction of legal abortion in Ireland following the possible repeal of the Eighth Amendment. The Irish Medical Organisation is to be congratulated on the position it adopted at the weekend that “GPs would have to be permitted to opt out of any new abortion service on conscience grounds”. (“GPs to seek contract for abortion services”, News, February 5th).

In my view the protection of freedom of conscience will have to be addressed should the question of legislation arise. The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act 2013 gave limited rights of conscientious objection to doctors and nurses. It gave no rights at all to laboratory staff, to administrators or to porters, ambulance drivers, etc. I was quite astonished at the time that trade unions such as Impact and Siptu who represent these other workers appear to have acquiesced in this discrimination against their members. This hierarchical approach to workers’ rights has no place in a modern Irish state. It should be corrected immediately irrespective of the outcome of the referendum. – Yours, etc,


Killiney, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Simon Coveney has said that he is not comfortable with the 12-week limit proposed as part of legislation to regulate abortion provision following a future repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

The Tánaiste cites concerns that the “unborn” needs to be protected. Protected from whom, exactly? From the girl or woman in whose uterus it is implanted? Surely, if Mr Coveney cannot trust a person to make the right choice for herself and her family at the beginning of a pregnancy, he is not suggesting that she be granted custody of a child at the end, having been forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term? Or is the Tánaiste, along with the other TDs sitting on the fence, content to let England continue to take care of Irish women, while we pretend there is no abortion in Ireland? It really is time that this country began to trust women to make their own reproductive choices, and to provide them with all the care and support they need, whatever choice they make. Trust women. Repeal the Eighth Amendment. – Yours, etc,


Dromahair, Co Leitrim.