Q & A

What is Abortion?

Abortion 8th Amendment

Q:  What is Abortion?

A: Abortion involves the deliberate destruction of a baby’s life before it is born. The only aim of the procedure is to end the child’s life. If the child lives it means that the procedure has failed.


What is the 8th Amendment?

8th Amendment Abortion

Q:  What is the 8th Amendment?

A:  The 8th Amendment is the clause in the Constitution that protects mums and babies in pregnancy. It was inserted into the Constitution in 1983 and supported by a 67% of those who voted in the referendum. The 8th Amendment was voted in at a time when other countries were introducing abortion and abandoning the right to life of unborn babies.

There are very few laws it can be said with certainty save lives. The 8th Amendment is one such law.  There are so many stories of mothers and parents who contemplated abortion, only to change their minds at the last minute. Having to travel to England meant a few extra days planning and gave them the time to think things through a bit more and decide against abortion. Today, they cannot believe they ever entertained the idea of ending the life of the son or daughter who now means the world to them.
At least 100,000 lives have been saved by the 8th. That’s 1 in every 50 people in Ireland or the population of Co. Kilkenny.

See article published on The Irish Times.

Download the actuarial report (pdf).

Why do you want to keep the 8th Amendment?

Q. Why do you want to keep the 8th Amendment?

A. The 8th Amendment has had a hugely positive, humane and life-saving impact on society. Our abortion rates are a fraction of those in Britain, taking our different population sizes into account.

In the past five years in Ireland, we’ve had a government established working group on abortion, two sets of exhaustive Oireachtas hearings, legislation in 2013, four Private Members’ bills in the Dáil, a Citizens’ Assembly in 2017 and now another Oireachtas Committee looking at the issue – all focussed on abortion and broadening the grounds for it. Not one of these committees, assemblies or bills focussed on alternatives to abortion.

Rather than looking at ways to dismantle the 8th Amendment, we should be building on the life-affirming vision that is at the heart of this constitutional provision. We should be focussed on issues that unite our society rather than divide it.

Legalised abortion is part of the old order. It has led to the deaths of millions of innocent unborn babies in the past 40+ years. There is nothing liberal, enlightened or progressive about misusing words like “choice” to sanction the taking of someone else’s life.

Once abortion is introduced in certain circumstances, it’s only a matter of time before the grounds are expanded. That’s the undeniable international experience of legalised abortion.

Human rights never get old. They don’t pass their sell-by-date. The 8th Amendment is as vital and meaningful today as it was when first introduced. It’s should be robustly defended not repealed.


How can you compare a woman to a foetus and see them as equal?

ultrasound abortion 8th Amendment

Q:  How can you compare a woman to a foetus and see them as equal, especially in early pregnancy?

A: Each of us, as a vulnerable unborn child, completed the journey from conception to birth.  Most of us have seen the amazing ultrasound pictures of our own children or those of family members.

The baby’s heart starts beating at 21 days. At just six weeks, the baby’s eyes and eyelids, nose, mouth, and tongue are forming. Electrical brain activity can be detected at six or seven weeks, and by the end of the eighth week, all the baby’s organs are developing.

By ten weeks the child can make bodily movements. At 12 weeks the baby can be seen sucking its thumb and wiggling in the womb.

The amazing advances in ultrasound technology illuminate the truth that the unborn child is a human being – a human life with potential, not a potential human life.

Each human being, regardless of age, dependency, gender, disability, or circumstance, possesses a profound, inherent, equal, and irreplaceable value and dignity. If as a society we arbitrarily decide to choose which human lives are worthy or unworthy of protection in law, we diminish respect for all human life, born and unborn.

Q:  That’s all very well but isn’t a woman’s body her own, shouldn’t she be able to do with it whatever she wants?

A: The unborn child also has rights, we don’t believe that a woman has a right to end the life of the child in her womb. The Constitution should protect unborn as well as born human beings.


What if the woman’s life is at risk?


Q:  What if the woman’s life is at risk?

A: Under existing law in Ireland, a woman is entitled to receive all necessary medical treatments in pregnancy to protect her life and health.

Sometimes the treatment may indirectly result in the death of the unborn baby. However, the intention is not to end the baby’s life but to provide life-saving treatment to the mother.

Clearly, then, there is an ethical distinction between necessary medical interventions in pregnancy where the baby may be exposed to some risks and induced abortion where the life of the baby is directly and intentionally targeted.

Ireland ranks in the top league in the world in terms of safety for pregnant women [1]. So the argument that Ireland without abortion has put women’s lives at risk simply doesn’t add up. Ireland has a safety record very close to Britain’s. The most recent official estimates place Ireland ahead of Britain and considerably ahead of the US when it comes to safety for mums during pregnancy.

Based on ongoing media coverage, however, one could be forgiven for thinking that Ireland without abortion has been an unsafe country for pregnant women. But as the official figures show, the opposite is the case.

Q: But what if a pregnant woman is suicidal, shouldn’t she be able to have an abortion?

A: There is no evidence, anywhere in the world, to show that abortion treats suicide ideation. There is evidence to show that abortion can have a negative effect on a woman’s mental health [2] [3] [4]. Furthermore, when a person is suicidal, they are advised not to make any irrevocable decisions. Abortion is the most irrevocable decision that a pregnant woman can make.

Q:  What about the abortion pill? Many women import them online. Surely, it would be safer for women if abortion was legalised?

A: Purchasing abortion pills online is not unique to Ireland. It’s also happens in countries where abortion is legal. The sale of illegal and counterfeit drugs is a public health issue that every jurisdiction has to contend with. It’s the responsibility of the Medicines Board and the customs authorities to police. It is certainly not something that should be used by campaigners as a stalking horse for legalised abortion.


[1] Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2015, Estimates by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World  Bank Group and the United Nations Population Division (2015).

[2] Abortion and mental health disorders: evidence from a 30-year longitudinal study, David M. Fergusson, L. John Horwood and Joseph M. Boden, British Journal of Psychiatry, 2008, 193:444-451.

[3] Abortion in young women and subsequent mental health. Fergusson DM1, Horwood LJ, Ridder EM. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2006 Jan; 47(1):16-24.

[4] Pregnancy continuation and organizational religious activity following prenatal diagnosis of a lethal fetal defect are associated with improved psychological outcome. Cope H1, Garrett ME1, Gregory S2, Ashley-Koch A1. 2015 Aug; 35(8):761-8.

What about ‘Fatal Foetal Abnormality’?

Q: What about ‘Fatal Foetal Abnormality’?

A: The debate about abortion where an unborn baby has a life-shortening condition is not a medical one.

It is about how we look out for one another as a society. Anyone can have a disability, a handicap or a terminal illness and it can come in old age, middle age, in childhood or even before we are born. In each of these challenging situations we have to look after one another in a way that respects the dignity of every human life.

The term “fatal foetal abnormality”, for example, is grossly misleading [1]. It is intended to indicate how in a number of conditions the baby will die either in utero or almost immediately after birth. But doctors have no way of knowing how long a child diagnosed with one of these conditions will live. They could live for months and even years after birth. Studies have found over 70% of children conceived with anencephaly have live births, with roughly a third of these babies living for at least two days [2] [3].

In Ireland today there are parents who have returned home after aborting their baby with a terminal illness only to learn for the first time about the existence of perinatal hospice care as an alternative to abortion. It is simply intolerable that this is happening. The primary reason is the sustained media focus on abortion in these situations with little or no discussion on positive alternatives.

Instead of pressuring parents to go down the road of abortion, health care professionals should be given additional resources to provide high quality palliative care to facilitate families in sharing those precious moments with their baby for whatever length of time he or she lives [4].

When politicians or doctors support abortion for babies with a disability, a handicap or a terminal illness, they are making a negative judgement on the value of those babies’ lives. No one would dream of saying the law should not protect the right to life of, say, a three year old with a disability. Why then is it deemed acceptable to campaign for abortion where an unborn baby has a potentially life-shortening condition?

In Britain, 90% of babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome in the womb are aborted [5]. Abortion is legal in Britain for any detectable disability through all nine months of pregnancy.  In Denmark there is a goal to make it a Down Syndrome free country by 2030. In Iceland, shockingly, they have already reached that target.

In Ireland, we have a culture of equality and inclusion that we can be proud of. Nowhere is this more evident than in the work of the Special Olympics. Let’s extend supports to families and continue to improve outcomes and quality of life for people with Down syndrome and other disabilities, instead of following other countries down the destructive road of abortion.


[1] Fatally flawed? A review and ethical analysis of lethal congenital malformations. Wilkinson DJ1, Thiele P, Watkins A, De Crespigny L. BJOG. 2012 Oct;119(11):1302-8.

[2] “Incompatible with Life”: Does Article 40.3.3 Permit Abortion for “Fatal Foetal Abnormality”? Simons, Caroline, BCL LLM Medico-Legal Journal of Ireland, 2015, 21 (1), 11-4.

[3] Report about the birth and life of babies with anencephaly, Monika Jaquier (2006), www.anencephalie-info.org/e/report.php, M Jaquier, A Klein, E Bolthauser, ‘Spontaneous pregnancy outcome after prenatal diagnosis of anencephaly’ (2006) 113(8) British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 951-953.

[4] Evaluation of the Children’s Palliative Care Programme (CPCP). A jointly funded programme of work arising from Palliative Care for Children with Life-limiting, Conditions – A National Policy, SUMMARY REPORT, Dr Joanne Jordan GEN Research & Deirdre Fullerton Insights Health and Social Research, (2016).

[5] Parliamentary Inquiry into Abortion on the Grounds of Disability, UK, 2013 (pdf).

Aren’t you just imposing your religious opinion and beliefs on me?

Q:  Aren’t you just imposing your religious opinion and beliefs on me?

A:  Not true. You don’t have to be from any faith tradition to agree that human life should be protected and that intentionally ending the life of another human being is not right. Some of the world’s best-known self-professed atheists have also declared their support for the pro-life position. The right to life is first and foremost a human rights issue.


Women who have aborted. Are they criminals?

Q:  If a woman has an abortion are you saying she should be prosecuted and threatened with nearly a decade in prison?

A: The laws against abortion are there to protect women and unborn babies. Abortion is an extremely serious issue. It ends the life of an innocent baby in his or her mother’s womb. There should be deterrents in the law for something as serious as that. In the event, however, that any prosecution were to take place, it should focus on the abortion provider and not the woman seeking the abortion. Campaigners for repeal of the 8th Amendment know full well that in Ireland, just like in most other countries, women seeking abortions have not been targeted by the law or prosecuted.


What improvements do you propose for our society instead of abortion?

On any given night, there are more than 20 homeless pregnant women living rough on the streets of our cities [1]. This human suffering could be alleviated and suitable sheltered accommodation found, if the political will existed.

Likewise, we should be working together to make Ireland a pioneering centre of excellence for perinatal palliative care facilities to help families of babies with a life-limiting condition.

In 2015, only seven infants were presented for adoption in Ireland. Hundreds of Irish couples are on waiting lists having been declared suitable to adopt a child.

And as a country, we should be putting resources in place to conduct research with organisations like the Lejeune Foundation to enhance the lives of children with Down syndrome and improve their quality of life and outcomes.

These are just some of the areas we should be focussing our energies on as a society, rather than following other countries down the road of abortion.


[1] Source of numbers: Anew Dublin, the registered charity providing sheltered accommodation to homeless pregnant women (2016).

Photo by Stephen Bergin on Unsplash.

Aren’t we out of touch with the international community on this issue?

Q: The UN Human Rights Committee has criticised Ireland for not legalising abortion. Doesn’t that reveal how out of touch we are with the international community on this issue?

Ireland is under no legal obligation to legislate for abortion as a result of any comments from international bodies.  These same international bodies ignore the fact that abortion is legal up to birth in many countries, that babies with Down Syndrome and other disabilities are targeted by abortion, that sex selection abortion is permitted in many countries and that babies born alive after “botched abortions” are left to die.

Having said that, it is a really positive development that the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has sharply criticised its sister organisation, the UNHRC, for promoting abortion in cases where unborn babies have a disability.