The Eighth Amendment
Sir, – The Constitution is the foundation of our legal system and it belongs to the people. Through it we empower the legislature to enact legislation which is then administered through justice in the courts. The Eighth Amendment frustrates that by the people interfering with legislature’s ability to legislate. It requires them to produce difficult workaround legislation to reflect the reality of our society. Abortion is now legal in Ireland in certain circumstances. It is legal to distribute information on how to obtain abortion, it is legal to obtain abortion medication and it is legal to obtain an abortion though exceptional travel and cost is required. This in turn causes difficult court cases on very specific conditions and causes medical staff uncertainty when they should be focusing the best interests of their patients, sometimes with tragic consequences.
It causes most of those affected by the issue to ignore it by travelling abroad. Thus the amendment fails to achieve its objective of preventing abortion but simply imposes repugnant emotional, financial and health risk burdens on the large numbers circumventing the intended prohibition. In addition to this burden on its citizens, this failed prohibition mechanism tarnishes our reputation as a country both abroad and at home. It generates disillusion in the younger elements of our population in the rule of law in Ireland and the integrity of our legislature and justice system through the imposition of this “Irish solution to an Irish problem”.
Repealing the Eighth Amendment does not permit abortion on demand. It permits the legislature to do its job, the job we elected them to do. It permits the courts to then administer the justice of that law unencumbered by nebulous complications. It permits medical professionals to do their job focusing on the one issue that should matter: the best interests of their patient.
The Eighth Amendment does not prevent legislation on abortion. We already have such legislation after some terrible tragedies which can be attributed at least partly to the amendment. It just makes such legislation unnecessarily complicated as individual cases under the legislation can be appealed up to the Supreme Court on constitutional grounds, which is ridiculous for patients in very urgent medical need and the medical professionals treating them.
Repealing the Eighth Amendment would also require our politicians, whose job it is to legislate, to declare their values and hold themselves accountable for them rather than hiding behind a constitutional amendment. I applaud parties and politicians who recently declared where they stand on the issue. Now voters can decide accordingly whether to return them or not. Repealing the Eighth Amendment will not prevent or permit abortion, it will allow transparency and clarity on the issue and remove a stain on the rule of law from our Constitution. These are reasons enough to repeal it. – Yours, etc,
Bandon, Co Cork.
A chara, – Stephanie Irwin, writing from France, extols the attitudes that prevail in that country when it comes to sex and abortion over those in Ireland (“My French students can’t believe Irish women travel for abortions”, Life & Style, October 25th). She says that her French students are “puzzled” by our laws and that our Constitution protects the lives of unborn children.
But what are the practical outworking of these attitudes she considers to be superior? According to the most recent figures available there were 760,421 live births reported in 2015 in France, with 203,463 abortions. That’s a roughly one to four ratio. That same year around 77 percent of all Down syndrome babies had their lives ended prior to birth. The figures for this last group seem to be increasing.
France is not unique. Similar scenarios of high rates of abortion, with a particular focus on the elimination of those with Down syndrome, is evident in all western countries with liberal abortion regimes. Given that, I am afraid that I prefer the attitudes that prevail in this country, even if they do puzzle your writer’s students. – Is mise,
Rev PATRICK G BURKE,
Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny.