Recommendation of Irish Committee deciding language for abortion referendum out of kilter with public opinion

By Dave Andrusko

Yesterday we wrote about the recommendation of a committee of the Irish Parliament which announced informally what it will formally recommend next Wednesday: an end to the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution which holds that mothers and unborn children have equal rights with authority on abortion transferred from thence forward to the Parliament known as the Oireachtas. “No other option will suffice,” is the way reporter Fiachra Ó Cionnaith of the Irish Examiner described the position of 12 of the 21 members.

The way the process works is after next Wednesday’s formal recommendation, “The Government will be tasked with preparing a wording for the referendum, which is due to take place in May, and preparing legislation for possible changes,” as the Irish Times reported. “Its final report will be completed by December 20th.”

Something I failed to make clear, indeed missed mentioning altogether—is how radically out of line the proposal is with public opinion on abortion in Ireland.

To be clear the Irish Times is as relentlessly pro-abortion, anti-Eighth Amendment as you possibly imagine. Nobody writes more about what opinion polls have suggested than columnist Pat Leahy.

For example, in a story that appeared October 5, Leahy analyzed in depth the newspaper’s latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll which asked different questions than usual. Instead of general questions, respondents were asked about which of two broad categories of changes they would favor and how they would vote on them if they were on the referendum—“general access versus limited access,” is his characterization.

Voters were asked if they were in favour of amending the Constitution “to allow for abortion in limited circumstances such as fatal foetal abnormality, rape or real risk to the life of the woman”; or amending the Constitution “to allow for abortion in all circumstances – abortion would be allowed up to the 22nd week of pregnancy.” They were also asked if they favoured “no referendum at all.”

Only 24% were in favor of the “all circumstances.” A total of 57% supported “abortion in limited circumstances,” and another 10% wanted no referendum at all.

A whopping 70% said they would vote in favor of the limited circumstances options to only 17% against. What about the “all circumstances” option which only 24% said they were in favor of? Only 35% said they would vote for it.

Of course, pro-lifers in Ireland are fighting to defend all unborn babies, so the “limited circumstances” option has no appeal for them.

As mentioned above, the government will determine the wording of next year’s referendum. It will be fascinating to see how it tries to thread the needle—push as much of the committee’s radical proposal yet do so in a manner that a much more cautious public doesn’t understand it is being duped.