The Eighth Amendment


Sir, – Peter Sutherland was the attorney general when the Eighth Amendment was originally written and introduced in 1983. He wrote that the Eighth Amendment wording would “lead inevitably to confusion and uncertainty, not merely amongst the medical profession . . . but also amongst lawyers”.

As I look at the campaign today, I notice Lawyers for Yes and Lawyers for No. I notice Doctors for Yes and Doctors for No.

I think this has proved that Peter Sutherland was completely correct in his opinion that the Eighth Amendment should never have been inserted into our Constitution. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 11.

Sir, – What can be deduced from Maeve Callan’s article (Online, “Saints once did abortions”, April 19th) about the miraculous abortions attributed to Irish saints?

One can no more derive the acceptability of abortion from these stories than one can justify the practice of violent revenge from those folktales which tell of supernatural retribution rendered against those who had the misfortune to cross a saint.

Her reference to the penitentials is of more value. They bear witness to the constant and consistent abhorrence of abortion in the Catholic tradition. The severity with which it was dealt did indeed vary according to circumstances and the scientific understanding of the time.

What we think of abortion here and now, however, cannot rest on medieval folktales, no matter how diverting they may be. The sonogram, the science of DNA and our understanding of embryology enable us to understand the foetus as alive and sharing our common humanity. It is on the grounds of humanity that the unborn child has a claim in justice to our protection. – Yours, etc,



Co Kerry.

Sir, – Call them what they are: not “pro-life” but “forced birthers”. Imagine pregnant women, behind bars, the freedom of your own body taken from you, forced to give birth.

That is what this referendum is about. – Yours, etc,


Dalkey ,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – The option of having an abortion is denied to two groups, the poor and inmates of direct provision centres. If, after the referendum, there is no change, then fairness would demand we either subsidise the disadvantaged groups or prevent the pregnant prosperous from travelling. – Yours, etc,


Ballinasloe, Co Galway.

Sir, – In the debate on the abortion referendum relatively little attention has been paid to the detail of the Government’s proposals for legislation that may or may not be enacted in the event of the referendum passing. Colm O’Gorman’s letter (April 19th) throws some welcome light on one aspect of that proposed legislation, the very limited recognition that will be given to the rights of people working in healthcare to exercise a conscientious objection to participating in abortion procedures. The conscientious objection provisions will be modelled on those contained in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 which confines such rights to doctors and nurses.

Even doctors and nurses have their rights circumscribed by the obligation, in cases where they exercise their legal right not to participate in abortion procedures, to “make such arrangements for the transfer of care of the pregnant woman concerned as may be necessary to enable the woman to avail of the medical procedure concerned”. In other words, even though their conscience prevents them from intentionally ending the life of an unborn baby, they will be required by law to collaborate in the supervision and organisation of this very act.

At this stage there is no reference in the sketchy outline of the proposed legislation to any penalties being imposed for a failure to collaborate with abortion procedures though, at the very least, it is to be expected that the terms and conditions of employment of doctors and nurses will be amended to include the necessity to comply with the possible post-referendum legislative provisions. The implications of this are obvious: doctors and nurses losing their jobs for failure to collaborate with the abortion legislation and hospital recruitment procedures that will discriminate against those who are unwilling to sign up to this requirement.

An alarming aspect of this proposed legislation is its elitist nature: apparently our legislators believe that the only people in the health services who have consciences are the professionals. A receptionist who objects to making an appointment for an abortion will have no legal right to exercise his or her conscientious objection. A porter who refuses to wheel a pregnant woman into theatre for an abortion or a cleaner who refuses to clean up or dispose of the human remains that result from an abortion will also have no rights. The medical and nursing unions have quite rightly highlighted the need to strengthen their members rights to conscientious objection. We have heard nothing from Siptu and Fórsa, the unions representing the vast majority of workers at every level in the health services. – Yours, etc,


Killiney, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Everyone wants abortion to be as rare as possible. However, as long as the majority of Irish abortions take place in a foreign jurisdiction, under a foreign jurisdiction’s laws, we are not only showing our lack of care for the women who are travelling for a termination, but also a lack of care about our abortion rate, and a corresponding lack of interest in doing anything about it. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.