Abortion debate heats up in Ireland as law revision looms
A team of experts is set to issue recommendations on how to clarify once-staunchly Catholic Ireland's abortion laws, spurring both pro-life and pro-choice groups to take to the streets.
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"It's a fact, regardless of how the abortion industry tries to rubbish it, that abortion has an effect on women," says Ms. Nic Mhathuna. "Effects ranging from guilt, to depression, suicidal tendencies [to] drink and drug abuse."Skip to next paragraph
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Anti-abortion activists also point to Ireland's maternal health record, which they say is among the best in the world, to argue that abortion is rarely necessary.
However, Aoife Dermody of pro-choice campaign Action on X, says the shift makes a wedge issue of abortion.
"They have adopted the political language of the left. It's not to say they don't care for women, but when you pull the argument apart the evidence isn't there."
Ms. Dermody says opponents fundamentally remain opposed to abortion on conservative and religious grounds.
Dim prospects for legislation
Ireland's coalition government, composed of the center-right Fine Gael party and center-left Labor, faces a tough time agreeing to implement any abortion legislation and the stage is set for a battle.
Independent socialist lawmaker Clare Daly, whose private members' bill on legislating for abortion was rejected by the Dáil, Ireland's lower house of parliament, on April 19, welcomes the challenge.
"I think things [in Ireland] have changed," she says. "We wanted to positively put forward at least the most limited case for legislation, rather than just just working reactively all the time."
Pro-life advocates are equally bullish.
"The ECHR judgment is nonbinding, [and] it was welcomed by pro-life groups in Europe because it didn't find a right to abortion as a human right. It said 'make your legal situation clear,'" says David Quinn of the Iona Institute, an interdenominational religious think tank.
"I do think the majority of [centrist party] Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael politicians would go against abortion-on-demand, " says Youth Defence's Nic Mhathuna.
One option the expert proup may propose is that Ireland go to the polls on the matter.
"We'd support a referendum if it was clearly worded. Something as fundamental as this has to be decided by the people," says Nic Mhathuna.
Albeit to a limited degree, on this both sides agree. "You can see how divisive it still is at the moment. If, as a politician, your raison d'être is to keep your seat you can see why they'd want to avoid the issue," says Action on X's Aoife Dermody.
But, she says, "What the polls consistently show is that there is majority support for abortion in circumstances more liberal than the X case. We can complain about the government, but we have to take responsibility as an electorate."
But trainee attorney and feminist activist Wendy Lyon sounds a note of caution that, even if legislation is enacted, that's no guarantee of change. "All you have to do is look at the situation in Poland, where the law is very similar to the [British] 1967 Act, and yet it is much harder [there] to access abortion than in the UK."
Making a Difference