8th Amendment Abortion


REASON 8: “In the UK, 1 in 5 pregnancies end in abortion”

There is no such things as “restrictive abortion”.  There’s no such thing as “a little bit of abortion”. There’s no such thing as “abortion in certain cases.”

We become so used to hearing these phrases that it’s easy to forget that they simply don’t exist. Abortion isn’t something that can be contained.  Once it has been introduced into a country for a certain ground – any ground – it becomes only a matter of time before the grounds are extended and abortion becomes available in every ground.




That’s the experience of other countries.  We only need to look to England and Wales. Abortion was introduced there in 1967 under the Abortion Act.  At the time, the abortion rate was 1 in 40 pregnancies.  Within five years, it had jumped to 1 in 7. Today, it’s a staggering 1 in 5.

That means that for every 5 pregnancies, 1 of them ends in abortion. There are other shocking statistics too.  90% of babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome in the womb are aborted. Abortion is available up to birth for babies who have any disability.

So what went wrong in England and Wales? Why didn’t the promise of “restrictive abortion” made in 1967 come true? The reality is that once abortion in introduced to a country, a very sinister comment is made on the value of human life itself.  We’re saying that some lives can be ended, some lives don’t deserve the protection of the law whether due to disability or some other circumstance.

And that changes things. It changes how people feel about abortion and about unborn babies.  They’re not given the same value as countries where abortion is not allowed.

Ireland is by no means perfect, but our abortion rate much lower than the 1 in 5 rate in England and Wales and the work of the Love Both Project is going to help reduce our rate further and protect more babies and support their families.

Think again about that 1 in 5 figure and think about 5 of your close friends.  Which would could you do without?  Let’s not be faced with that choice.  Instead, let’s #loveboth.




REASON 7: “Compassionate care in cases of ‘Fatal Foetal Abnormality'”

Hearing that there’s something wrong with your baby has to be one of the most difficult situations for any parents.  It’s particularly challenging when your baby is still in the womb – at a time when you should be looking forward to meeting them face to face at birth, you’re thrust into a completely new reality.

These babies present a very special challenge to the vision offered by the Love Both Project.  We need to respect and care for the needs of parents at a time when they are receiving traumatic news and having to take on board medical information that they were not prepared for.  The needs of other children and the extended family members must also be taken into account – expectations of a healthy sibling or grandchild will now have to change. And of course, the unborn baby will need very special care and love at this time.




With so many specialised types of need, it’s only fitting that a specialised model of care has been developed to look after these families.  That model is perinatal palliative care and it involves considering how best to help families come to terms with the fact that their new baby may not survive to birth or live for very long after that.

This kind of care doesn’t just involve thinking about one day during the pregnancy – instead, every aspect is considered.  Parents are encouraged to think about how they want to spend the short time that they may have with their babies after they are born – to ask a professional photographer to take photographs that can be used as treasured memories, to make a space for family members to come and meet the baby in whatever time they have.

Unfortunately in Ireland, we’re not having the kind of discussion about perinatal palliative care that we all deserve.  Too often, families who are told that their babies have a serious or terminal condition in the womb travel abroad for an abortion and only on returning do they discover that there was a means of care that could have enabled them to continue with their pregnancy in an atmosphere of loving support.  When we hear discussions about babies who have serious conditions, too often the talk turns to abortion instead of listening to the needs of families who have been through this experience.  Many parents say that they felt abandoned when they received their baby’s diagnosis.  They didn’t feel the support they should have.  This is something we need to change.

Other parents say that they received a misdiagnosis – they were told that their baby would die only to find, to their intense joy, that their baby was born healthy.  Unfortunately, in countries where abortion becomes the norm for these sick babies, parents are encouraged to have abortions and they’re not given the chance to recover from the shock, reflect on the situation and decide how best to prepare for the new type of care their entire family will need.

Deciding that we will #loveboth mean accepting all unborn children, regardless of any illness or condition that they may have.  It means supporting their families and working together to ensure that Ireland becomes a centre of excellence in the provision of perinatal palliative care.  The 8th Amendment provides the foundation stone for this kind of compassionate care.  It’s up to us to build on this great law as we move forward together.




REASON 6: “Stories of hope after rape”

One of the hardest situations for us to imagine a vision of Ireland where we can #loveboth is the case of pregnancy following rape. But it’s very important that we don’t allow abortion to become the “default response” to pregnancy in these cases.

If we do that, then we do a grave disservice to women and babies.  To women, because we ignore the fact that a woman who has been raped has suffered a massive trauma, one that abortion cannot remove or take away, no matter how well-intentioned we are.  Indeed, abortion itself is a trauma for many women, one that often leaves them regretting the sad loss of their child.  By allowing abortion to become an accepted response to pregnancy following rape, we would be changing our society to one that prevails in many parts of the world – where women are encouraged to make a decision on something so complex at a time when they are still in shock from the rape.  The reality in those circumstances of course, is that there can be no time limits for abortion following rape so it must be allowed up to birth.

The Love Both vision must take into accounts the needs of both mother and baby in these cases, and to do that, we need to start listening.  We need to listen to people like Shauna Prewitt.  Shauna, who became pregnant after rape says that she has never regretted her decision to continue with the pregnancy. In her own words, “I think the world would be a much worse place without my little girl.”




Our own Rape Crisis Centre has carried out research that shows that 74% of women in Ireland who become pregnant after rape do not have an abortion.*  What do we need to do for these women, indeed for all women who are raped and find themselves pregnant?  First of all, we need to start listening – to the stories of women who say they needed support to continue with their pregnancies in those circumstances.  We need to listen to women who say they had abortions in the sudden shock but then came to regret them.  And we need to listen to those who courageously come forward to say that they were born as a result of rape.  These people are our friends and family members too – do they deserve any less support or protection from our laws?

Then there is the injustice of abortion to the unborn baby.  Just like any of us, she had nothing to do with the circumstances of her conception.  And she is not responsible for the actions of her biological father.  So why should her life be ended for a crime that she didn’t commit?  In a situation which is inherently unfair, this is perhaps the most unfair aspect – ending the life of an innocent child when the rapist will receive a much shorter prison sentence (if indeed he is brought to justice at all).

People like Ryan Bomberger and Rebecca Kiessling who were conceived in rape rightly make the point that their lives should not be forfeit as as result of the actions of a man who committed violence against their mother. Through his organisation, the Radiance Foundation, Ryan has created many beautiful ways of acknowledging and thanking his biological mother for having the courage to continue with her pregnancy and give him a chance to be adopted by a loving family. In Ryan’s own words, “We’re all wanted by someone.”

Finally, we need to work on seeking stronger sentences for rapists so that their victims will see that we care enough to see true justice for them and every other support that will see them regain their confidence and trust.


*Rape Crisis Network Ireland: 2014 National Rape Crisis statistics.





REASON 5: “Adoption, a positive alternative”

by Sinead Slattery, PLC Spokesperson

I don’t underestimate the enormity of a crisis pregnancy for any woman, at any age for any reason.

I can deeply appreciate the anxiety felt by a young college student who may feel that her crisis pregnancy means that she can no longer finish her education, travel the world and build her career. In this situation she may feel that she has to choose between the ending of her life by giving up on her dreams, or the ending of her unborn child’s life by opting for an abortion.

There are a myriad of different reasons why a women will choose an abortion but if we as a society legalise widespread abortion then what we are saying is that it is easier to terminate a human life, often violently, than it is to enhance the support a women needs at this vulnerable time. And by enhancing this support it is all women who will benefit not just those in crisis pregnancy.




An example of how we can “Love Both” is through the promotion of adoption as an option in a crisis pregnancy. I say this with the utmost sensitivity and understanding of what a difficult and heroic act it is to hand your baby over for adoption. I think it must be particularly difficult to opt for this option in current Irish society where so few do so and so it becomes more and more difficult for others to do the same. However the more the option of adoption is discussed at national and local level, promoted by government, adoption agencies and marketing campaigns; the more culturally acceptable it will become for those to do it.

We must work at this – the Adoption Authority of Ireland issued their Annual Report in 2015 where they stated that there were only 7 lives presented for adoption in Ireland even though hundreds of couples have been declared suitable to adopt.

These figures show how much we need to do but the benefits of adoption are obvious; the unborn child receives the gift of fulfilling their lives under the loving guardianship of a couple who are unable to conceive a child of their own. The college student gets to continue her studies, travel the world and build her career, whilst knowing that her child is being cared for by a couple who are in a position to do so.

There are millions of lives saved today worldwide because of adoption. One of these was Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple who testified to the importance of adoption in his life and the gratitude he had for his mother by saying –

“I wanted to meet my biological mother…. mostly to thank her, because I’m glad I didn’t end up as an abortion. She was twenty three and she went through a lot to have me”.

These words are a wonderful testament to the courage of women who continue with their pregnancies and allow their babies to be adopted.  And they are words of encouragement for everyone who believes in the vision of the Love Both Project; that a more positive alternative is out there if we’re just willing to search for it.





REASON 4: “90% of babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome in Britain are aborted”

In a country like Ireland where the Special Olympics has become one of the largest and most successful volunteer organisations in the country, it’s hard to imagine unborn children with disabilities being denied the chance to fulfil their potential.

But that’s exactly what happens when abortion is allowed. Abortion allows discrimination and the repeal of the 8th Amendment would be the first, devastating step towards a world where the 9,000 athletes and 25,000 volunteers in our Special Olympics are not given the value and protection that they deserve.

We only have to look to England and wales to see the devastation that abortion wreaks on disabled children.  The 1967 Abortion Act set in train a motion whereby today, abortion is allowed up to birth for children who are diagnosed with any disability whatsoever.




That is perhaps most horrific for babies who have a condition like Down Syndrome that can be detected in the womb.  What does this mean in reality?

  • 90% of babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome in the womb are aborted in England and Wales.
  • In Iceland, that figure rises to a horrifying 100%.
  • Denmark has even set itself a goal of creating a “Down Syndrome free” society by 2030.

These facts are horrific to us, and rightly so.  After all, Ireland respects people with disabilities.  The idea of “screening out” children who are different in some way goes against Ireland’s life-affirming culture.  But while these facts may strike us as something out of a modern day horror story, they’re a reality in the world and are caused by abortion becoming normalised, by the idea that there is such a thing as a “perfect human” and abortion can be used if an unborn baby doesn’t meet this mythical standard.

What should the #loveboth response be?

In Ireland, we’re lucky.  We have our Special Olympics.  We value people with disabilities and we’re working every day to make the country a better place for them.

All of these efforts begin with the 8th Amendment.  Guaranteeing the rights of people with disabilities begins with protecting their first right, the most fundamental right of all – the right to life.





REASON 3: “Ireland’s safety record for women in pregnancy”

One of the biggest obstacles to the aims of the Love Both Project is misinformation.  Misinformation lets us all down.  It gives the public a false impression of what’s happening in the country.  Worse than that, twisting and falsifying facts scares people.

One of the worst pieces of misinformation ist hat surrounding Ireland’s maternal mortality rate.  Sadly, the myth has been spread both at home and abroad that Ireland is in some way a dangerous place for women to be pregnant.

Guess what?  This claim couldn’t be further from the truth.




Ireland is a world leader when it comes to looking after women in pregnancy.  The methods for calculating maternal mortality rates have changed over recent eyars but it doesn’t matter which method is used – Ireland’s medical profession remains among the best in the world.

So where does the confusion come from?

Sadly, it’s one claim made by those who want to see the Eighth Amendment repealed and abortion introduced.  There’s no doubt that the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar contributed to the confusion and the belief that there was something dangerous about the Eighth Amendment.  But again, this is a misunderstanding and Savita’s tragic death shouldn’t be used to advance a campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Three independent reports (by the HSE, HIQA and the Coroner’s Report) found that Savita did not die as a result of Ireland’s prolife laws.  Instead, her death was due to an anti-biotic resistant strain of ecoli complicated by sepsis and a series of systems failures which delayed the nature by her medical team of the seriousness of her condition.

The important point for all who want to ensure that we can #loveboth in our country is that no matter what figures prochoice campaigners have used, they haven’t been able to show that abortion is needed to save women’s lives. This is the truth, and it’s the message that we need to re-establish in the public debate.





REASON 2: “A baby’s heart beats just 21 days after conception”

In 1983, the people of Ireland did an amazing thing.  They had the foresight and generosity to insert a constitutional provision that acknowledged the right to life of unborn children.

At least one important distinction should be made about this time. When the Eighth Amendment was passed, the people who voted for it didn’t create a right for unborn babies, they merely acknowledged it. No-one can create a right to life, just as no-one can take that right away. The rights of unborn children derive from their own intrinsic worth as unique human beings.

The other thing that was spectacular about the 1983 referendum was the fact that so little was known about the development of the unborn child in the womb at the time.


8th Amendment Abortion


Back then, there were no 4D ultrasound scans that showed the baby smiling, yawning and moving in the womb.  It was impossible to know what we know today – facts about the baby that make it impossible to deny his or her humanity:

  • Week 4 – facial features start to form.
  • Week 6 – internal organs are formed.
  • Week 8 – Nervous system is responsive.
  • Week 9 – Baby can swallow, yawn and suck
  • Week 11 – Baby stretches and jumps*

In 1983, the public looked past what science couldn’t yet tell them and instead they focussed on the one thing they knew for sure – that unborn babies are human and deserved the same legal protection as everyone else. They also knew that the proper place for that protection was the document that protects the fundamental rights of every human being in Ireland – our Constitution.

Today, we know so much more about the development of the unborn baby.  Expectant couples can watch their baby’s heartbeat on video – they can even post the video on Facebook!  Given all that knowledge, we must work hard to ensure that the great intentions of the Eighth Amendment are fulfilled so that we always give a voice to the voiceless and continue to promote the protection of these beautiful and vulnerable human beings.




*Gestational milestones from Professor Stuart Campbell, Watch Me Grow!

London: Carroll & Brown Ltd. 2004





REASON 1: “The 8th Amendment saves lives”

It’s easy to overlook the lifesaving effect of the 8th Amendment but we do so at high risk.  It’s one of the most exciting aspects of the provision, and it’s one of the main reasons why we would come to miss the Eighth so much if it were repealed.

The 8th Amendment stands alone as a beacon of international human rights protection and those are not just words.  There are people alive in Ireland thanks to the provision.

People like Mary Kenny.  Mary was a student when she faced an unplanned pregnancy.  For many women in her situation who live in countries where abortion is available, it becomes the obvious solution.  Instead, Mary was able to take the time to really think about what she could do with her life and as a result, she decided to reject abortion and as a result her daughter Hollie was born.

They’re people like Emma from Co. Kildare, who also faced an unplanned pregnancy but, like Mary, rejected abortion.  Today she is the happy mother of baby Rossa.

There are many more people in Ireland like Mary and Hollie and Emma and Rossa. They’re your family members, neighbours, friends.  You may not even know who among your immediate group of family and friends would not be alive but for the 8th Amendment.  So many people say that the fact they had to plan to travel to England for an abortion meant that they had to spend a bit more time – they had a chance to think, to reflect on the unborn life that had begun and which deserved to protected.  And they had time to change their minds and instead start planning for the birth of a new human being.

It’s up to all of us to think about how much the 8th Amendment has contributed to our society.  An independent report commissioned by the Pro Life Campaign looked at just how many lives have been saved by the Eighth.  Essentially it asked what would Ireland looked like if there was no 8th Amendment – if the referendum had failed and abortion had been introduced to Ireland in 1994?

What the report found was that at a conservative estimate, 100,000 people are alive in Ireland today thanks to the 8th Amendment. Because abortion is not available here, our abortion rate has stayed relatively low compared to other countries.  In Ireland, 1 in 19 pregnancies ends in abortion.  In England and Wales, that rate is 1 in 5.  So if Ireland had had the same abortion rate as England and Wales since 1994, some 196,000 Irish citizens would not have been born.

The facts aren’t related to religion either because the report took the example of Spain, a country with a Catholic ethos but the same result turns out – 121,000 Irish citizens would not have been born.



So what does it all mean?

Lives are being saved.  Every day.  Thanks to the 8th Amendment.

There is no doubt that we need to do more to support women who find themselves facing unplanned or difficult pregnancies.  It is a tragedy that any woman feels the need to travel for an abortion.  But there is so little talk about the people whose lives have been saved by the 8th Amendment.  That’s surely something to celebrate.