The Eighth Amendment


Sir, – I find it very telling that the No posters focus almost exclusively on the foetus. All we see of the woman is her pregnant belly or inside her uterus. A woman is not merely a vessel. She is a person with hopes, dreams, family and friends. Do they really love both – because it seems to me they only love the unborn. – Yours, etc,



Co Wexford.

Sir, – In the UK, following the Brexit referendum, the public has had to slowly face the reality that the “have your cake and eat it” promises of the Brexiteers were illusory, and that there are inescapable repercussions to these kinds of policy choices.

For decades, Ireland has had a “cakeist” abortion policy, pretending to prohibit it while, in reality, quietly exporting the problem to the UK. This has allowed a certain section of our society to claim to be righteous, at the cost of inflicting significant emotional, physical and financial distress on large numbers of women left with no option but the ferry. As with so many other Irish solutions to Irish problems, this is free-riding and hypocrisy, dressed up as high moral principle.

Perhaps, in the course of this referendum, the Government should have made it crystal clear that in the event of a No vote it will assume that the people have the courage of their convictions, and will enforce a Nicaraguan or Honduran regime of total prohibition of abortion, with all the social consequences such a policy entails. After all – if abortion is murder in Dublin, why is it not also murder in Liverpool?

I suspect if it had done so the vote would not be as close as it is projected to be. – Yours, etc,



Sir – It is notable that Fergus O’Ferrall, a member of the Irish Times Trust, is “appalled” that some people may not wholly trust the legislature of the Irish Republic to “proceed responsibly” following a possible yes vote in the referendum later this month (Rite&Reason, May 8th).

Surely interrogation and criticism of the legislature, by individuals, ecclesial communities and the fourth estate, is a hard-won privilege, not to be reneged lightly? – Yours, etc,


Bristol, England.

Sir, – There is no “Byzantine moral logic” in my Rite & Reason column (May 8th) as claimed by David Smith’s letter (May 9th).

The moral case against Article 40.3.3 is crystal clear and compelling. Not only has it not worked from the point of view of its proponents, given the prevalence of Irish abortions, but is so damaging and dangerous for women’s health that it is morally repugnant.

Those who wish to oppose abortion effectively need to find a better way even if it means admitting that they were wrong in 1983, however hard this may be for them.

I would gently remind Mr Smith that the Methodist Church in Ireland is not “an ecclesiastical community in the service of the State”. We belong to the Church of Jesus Christ and we serve Christ alone and His mission of inclusive love and service to humankind.

Methodists, and indeed countless other Protestants, have been more likely to “protest” State power when necessary contrary to Mr Smith’s strange analysis of our historic characteristics!

We are glad, however, to contribute to the common good in Ireland’s diverse and pluralistic Republic not in pursuit of “the earthly paradise” from “a beneficent state” but in service to the Kingdom of Love inaugurated by Jesus of Nazareth. – Yours, etc,


Lay Leader,

The Methodist Church

in Ireland,


Dublin 18.

Sir, – Prof Noel Mulcahy expresses surprise (May 11th) that the subject of the immortal soul is receiving little or no attention in debates about the Eighth Amendment. I would be surprised if it featured in public discourse, considering that termination of pregnancy is essentially about human rights, morality and law. The idea of a spiritual and immortal soul is derived from religious faith. An immortal soul is, by definition, non-physical and is therefore beyond scientific investigation. It can be argued that the existence of immortal souls cannot be disproved beyond absolute certainty – but this falls far short of a rational basis for any ethical conclusion. Therefore, to borrow a phrase from Prof Mulcahy, I believe that “ensoulation” of embryos and foetuses is an “oddball subject” in the context of the current debate. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – For 35 years we have lived with the disastrous Eighth Amendment to our Constitution, designed, according to its supporters, to keep Ireland abortion-free. In that time, thousands upon thousands of abortions have been requested by and carried out on Irish women, but just not in Ireland (for the most part). The Eighth Amendment has allowed the hypocritical fiction of an abortion-free Ireland to be maintained. Much more seriously, however, it has meant that women with crisis pregnancies have not received the healthcare here in Ireland that in any civilised state they would be entitled to; some of these women have died in Irish hospitals.

Crisis pregnancies are a reality and the circumstances in which they occur are many and complex. We should not judge, but rather trust that women in these situations do not make the decision to opt for a termination of their pregnancy for trivial reasons. Repealing the Eighth Amendment will not force any woman to have an abortion. Rather it will be a long-overdue acknowledgement of the reality of women’s lives and of their right to make choices that are right for them. – Yours, etc,


Chairwoman of the

Board of Women’s Studies,

University College Cork.