The Eighth Amendment


Sir, – A number of distinguished legal academics and practitioners inform us that the removal of the Eighth Amendment will not have the same effect in this jurisdiction as the decision in Roe v Wade had in the United States (April 9th).

I am surprised that anyone in favour of removing the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution would invoke this case at all, even to distinguish it. Roe, and the much more sinister Doe v Bolton, issued on the same day, are the very definition of judicial activism, and rights “discovered” in the US constitution by a small group controlling a key office and whose personal views become so mixed with their legal duties as to colour their decisions. Rights, in fact, which nobody in 200 years had even suspected were there. I would argue that such groups are the reason why we need explicitly worded constitutions in the first place.

Doe is particularly troubling for many reasons, not the least being that it extends the definition of a woman’s health to such a latitude as to render the supposedly restrictive state abortion laws referred to in the letter as essentially meaningless.

In any event, it’s a particularly bitter pill for supporters of the Eighth to be told that “many American states now have very conservative abortion laws”, considering how such people are routinely harangued as hypocrites because abortion is freely available to Irish women who travel to the UK. – Yours, etc,


Artane, Dublin 5.

A chara, – Some legal eagles have tried to suggest that there is really nothing to worry about if we repeal the Eighth Amendment. Those who place little or no value on the life of an unborn child may well agree with them. But those who know them to be vulnerable members of the human family whose rights need protecting are already very concerned indeed. It has been made plain that if the amendment is removed a very liberal regime of abortion on demand will be put in place. And we now know that without it the unborn will have absolutely no constitutional rights whatsoever. This means there will be nothing to prevent an even more liberal regime being implemented at some future stage. Based on this, those who are happy with such an outcome will have no worries about voting for repeal; all others will do what they can to ensure it is retained. – Is mise,


Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – Interestingly, former Fine Gael leader and taoiseach Enda Kenny abstained from the vote in the Dáil calling for the holding of a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment. It would be most appropriate were he to use the freedom allowed by his party on the issue to join his predecessor as Fine Gael taoiseach, John Bruton, in declaring opposition to repeal. That opposition just might reverse the prevailing assumption that it will carry.

If repeal is defeated it would signal to Europe that Ireland, almost alone, remains committed to the Christian Democratic principles that prompted the original impetus for European unity. Those principles revived a Europe that had been controlled from 1939 through 1945 by heathen ideologies, one of which continued to dominate half of Europe for another 45 years. Ireland might well be able to play the same role she played for Europe when the Dark Ages had set in a millennium and a half ago. – Yours, etc,


Professor Emeritus

of History,

Fordham University,

New York.

Sir, – Alongside other disenfranchised Irish citizens living abroad, I will be travelling home in solidarity with diaspora who are eligible to vote. More pertinently, we will be travelling in solidarity with the nine women a day forced to make the same trip across the Irish Sea to access healthcare denied to them at home.

The 13th Amendment makes it easy to turn a blind eye to the fact that nine women – those with the means to travel to the UK – have an abortion every day. The hypocrisy of this situation is shameful. We know that the Eighth Amendment fails women and pregnant people regardless of whether they decide to continue with their pregnancy or not. It causes further harm to women and girls in vulnerable economic, social and emotional circumstances who cannot travel for healthcare, exposing them to the dangers of taking the abortion pill without medical supervision or being forced to remain pregnant.

I hope that after May all women in Ireland will have the same rights and access to safe and compassionate healthcare at home as Irish women do abroad.

Together for Yes. – Is mise,



Sir, – The choice of 12 weeks is an arbitrary cut-off for allowing abortion and does not stand up to scrutiny. There is no fundamental difference that justifies an abortion at nine or ten or 11 weeks, but not at 13.

Even if a case could be made for confirming women’s health and dealing with fatal foetal abnormality and rape, the current proposals are entirely disproportionate to these aims. There has been no real debate about targeted measures. Instead we are told we must embrace a wholesale abortion regime. No weight is given to the collateral damage – thousands of healthy babies whose lives will be ended as a result.

This is not the referendum that most people want. The Government has taken a sledgehammer to a situation that required nuance and precision. It is the Government that has chosen this battleground of extremes. We are told there is no other way, in the hope that moderates will be forced to assent to proposals they would not naturally accept.

For me, the price being extracted is far too high and the issues far too important to get this wrong. I will not be bullied into an extreme position by a Government that has failed to provide a moderate alternative. – Yours, etc,


Whitehall, Dublin 9.