The Eighth Amendment


Sir, – I must clarify some of Rena Haverty’s (April 20th) comments about human rights when arguing for retaining “the right to life of the unborn” in the Constitution.

People may sincerely believe that a foetus should have the same legal rights as a born woman or girl, but this has no basis in international human rights law. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights cited by Ms Haverty deliberately states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

The subsequent human rights treaties that Ireland helped create require women’s and girls’ human rights to be at the centre of a State’s law and Constitution, including regarding termination of pregnancy. Even the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, from which Ms Haverty seeks support for her argument, does not provide the right to life prenatally. In fact, the only position the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has taken on children’s rights and abortion is to call on States, including Ireland, to ensure adolescent girls have access to abortion services. This is not callous, arbitrary or unjust. As a society, we value and want to protect foetal welfare.

The international human rights framework supports states’ safeguarding foetal interests – just not through measures that violate the pregnant woman’s or girl’s human rights.

The most effective way a state can protect foetal welfare is by ensuring the pregnant woman has access to adequate healthcare and nutrition.

But the state may also limit access to abortion “on request” to early pregnancy. This both protects foetal interests and respects women’s rights. And this is what our Government proposes to do if the Eighth Amendment is removed.

But there is a terribly important distinction between protecting foetal interests and conferring a right to life on the foetus. In 1983, Ireland’s constitutional right to life of the foetus was created.

The Eighth Amendment never stopped abortions though, just forced hundreds of thousands of women and girls into having potentially unsafe abortions. It has inflicted 35 years of harm and anguish; and continues to violate women’s human rights daily.

This is the real human rights position. If the people of Ireland do not vote Yes in the 25th May referendum, nothing can change for generations of women and girls to come. – Yours, etc,


Executive Director,

Amnesty International


Seán MacBride House,

Fleet Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – I see that Amnesty International’s latest campaign to legalise abortion in Ireland is called the “It’s Time to Talk” campaign.

We could start first by talking to Amnesty about how its abortion campaign was financed by billionaire George Soros, and how Amnesty has continued to refuse to return those campaign funds, despite the Standards In Public Office Commission (Sipo) instructing it to do so. Then we could talk about how abortion is a denial of the most basic human right, the right to life, of babies in the womb. But would that get us anywhere?

While Amnesty claims it is time to talk, it does not like to listen.

That is why it continues to ignore Sipo’s ruling that it was in receipt of such foreign funding and why it denies the human rights of preborn babies. Despite this, Amnesty has the arrogance to lecture the Irish people on its interpretation of human rights law. – Yours, etc,



Co Meath.

Sir, – A common utterance in the ongoing Eighth Amendment referendum debate is that we cannot, and should not, trust our politicians to legislate for abortion.

Given that at least nine women a day travel from Ireland to Britain to access abortion services, it seems many are happy to leave our abortion legislation in the hands of a foreign government and foreign politicians.

Are we to trust them more? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 15.

Sir, – It has been fascinating to witness, on social media and elsewhere, the response by opponents of the Eighth Amendment to comments made by Nell McCafferty. All she did was acknowledge the physical reality of abortion in the context of a speech in which she actually supported repealing the Eighth Amendment. Immediately, however, she was condemned as “ill-informed”, “unkind”, “manipulative”, a “bigot” and worse. One keyboard warrior even demanded that the veteran feminist stop “thinking out loud”.

Whatever about the coherence of Nell McCafferty’s current position, it’s clear that she is on a journey. She acknowledges that she only recently learned the basic facts about foetal development and abortion procedures.

Until then she was, in her own words, “unwilling to face some of the facts about abortion”.

It seems many supporters of repeal are in the same boat that she was in. They would do well to stop the heckling, and to try out Nell McCafferty’s own brand of intellectual honesty for a moment. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – I consider myself a socialist. It is with some surprise, then, to myself and my (left-wing) friends, that I have pledged – if the Eighth Amendment is repealed and the 12-week proposal successfully introduced – to vote for Paschal Donohoe in Dublin Central at the next general election.

Repealing the Eighth Amendment, if it happens, would represent momentous and positive change for Ireland.

Voting for Fine Gael, just the once, would be my way of thanking the “right-wing” party for its part in it. – Yours, etc,


Arbour Hill,

Dublin 7.