The Eighth Amendment


Sir, – I would like to bring to the attention of your readers a little-known fact about the Eighth Amendment that appears to have been lost in the debate. Apart from banning abortion, the Eighth Amendment also detrimentally affects women who are pregnant and wish to continue with the pregnancy.

The HSE’s National Consent Policy restricts informed consent and informed refusal of treatment for pregnant women. To quote the policy page 41, Section 7.7.1 “because of the Constitutional provisions on the right to life of the unborn [Article 40.3.3] there is significant legal uncertainty regarding a pregnant woman’s right to [consent]”. This section of the policy allows the HSE to apply for injunctions from the High Court which compel pregnant women to receive treatment where they do not consent to proposed treatment plans, whether these are in line with international best practice or not.

This impacts directly on many aspects of maternity care in Ireland – antenatal, labour, and birth. It directly removes and overrides the woman’s right to consent for any procedure during labour and birth.

Until the Eighth Amendment is removed from our Constitution, women will still be treated as second class citizens.

Many people feel it has nothing to do with them, but we all know someone who has been affected by the Eighth Amendment. We all have mothers, sister, wives, etc. We must support these women in all aspects of their reproductive decisions. – Yours, etc,


Athboy, Co Meath.

Sir, – I fully agree that abortion should be allowed in circumstances where the life or health of the mother is at risk, in the case of fatal foetal abnormality, and perhaps for rape and incest.

But what I am very uncomfortable with is any legislation that would allow unwanted, but perfectly healthy, pregnancies to be aborted for non-medical and social reasons.

I fully realise that the latter is happening anyway, in that such women then resort for example to taking abortion pills obtained online and without proper medical supervision, or go abroad to have their abortions.

Nevertheless, it does not follow that simply because these things are already happening in Ireland or elsewhere that we here should therefore introduce abortion for non-medical reasons, and that this country should also take away from the unborn the most paramount of all human rights in this world, the right to a life. Thus while I support the introduction of legal abortion under certain circumstances, the repeal and any legislation proposed that would allow unrestricted abortions for non-medical reasons are a bridge too far for me, and no doubt for many others.

Might I therefore suggest that our legislators seriously consider dropping the idea of blanket unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks, and limit their proposed legislation to allow for legal abortion only where it is medically indicated, as well as perhaps for rape and incest?

Such a change would make it acceptable to very many people who like myself do accept the need to provide for abortion in certain circumstances, but who cannot in all good conscience vote for a repeal of the Eighth Amendment lest it lead to allowing in abortion on demand here for non-medical reasons. – Yours, etc,


Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.

Sir, – William Binchy rather sneers at politicians when he asks the question, “Do we want politicians to be able to legislate for abortion on demand with few restrictions?” (“Supreme Court has given us a clear choice in abortion referendum”, Opinion & Analysis, March 17th). More importantly, do we want politicians to be able to legislate? If not politicians, then who? – Yours, etc,