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Mid-West Humanists campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution

We should remove Article 40.3.3 from the Constitution of Ireland

We should bring Abortion Services home to Ireland

At their meeting in January 2018 the Mid-West Humanists decided that democracy means that the Dáil and Senate should let the people vote on removing Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution. (At this date, the Government has said there will be a Referendum on this in May 2018.)
We write about how the 8th Amendment (Article 40.3.3) was added to the Constitution in 1983, the social and political climate connected with this, and its later modification in 1992. We also show Article 40.3.3 (page 172 of the PDF version of the online Constitution).

The Mid-West Humanists composed a leaflet of information for voters, including reasons to vote Yes (to remove Article 40.3.3), at the meeting in February 2018. You can read Repeal the 8th Amendment on our Aims and Media page.

We have another post on why the Mid-West Humanists are campaigning publicly. We welcome comments there, or on this post, or in our Facebook group.

On the Streets

Some Mid-West Humanists have been on the streets, starting in Limerick city centre on Saturday 24 February2018, to give our leaflets to the public. We expect to be on the streets in Limerick again on Saturday 03 March 2018, when several other groups will also be campaigning for the repeal of the 8th amendment.
We hope to campaign on further dates in the same and in further places.


Constitution of Ireland 1937
Article 40.3.3

8th Amendment, 1983

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

Added 1992 (13th Amendment)

This subsection shall not limit freedom to travel between the State and another state.

Added 1992 (14th Amendment)

This subsection shall not limit freedom to obtain or make available, in the State, subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state.

History of Article 40.3.3

This subsection of Article 40 was added by Referendum in late 1983, after a small set of people pressed both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to do so, in the campaigns for the general elections in 1981, spring 1982, and autumn 1982. This set of people told the politicians that they feared the Supreme Court would declare termination of pregnancy a constitutional right, as the United States of America Supreme Court had declared in 1973; and that they feared that the Dáil and Senate would pass a law to permit abortion, as the United Kingdom Parliament had passed in 1967.
The campaigners for this Amendment set each party in fear of the other party. Once Charles Haughey (leader of Fianna Fáil) agreed to arrange this referendum, Garret Fitzgerald (leader of Fine Gael) – who favoured making Ireland and Irish society more liberal – knew that if he did not also say yes, this set of people would say widely in public, in the election campaigns, that Fine Gael favoured a law to permit abortion in Ireland.  The people who pressed for the 8th amendment got a lot of publicity from the start of their campaign in 1980 or 1981, more strongly than the same or equivalent people do now in 2018. While Garret Fitzgerald really hated promising a referendum, he felt that he had no choice.
The Pro-Amendment campaigners pressed people to vote Yes when the referendum came, saying that a person who would not vote Yes is a person who wants to introduce legal abortion in Ireland. Many people in Ireland were more conservative than is common now – but the majority of people were distinctly not as conservative as the Pro-Amendment campaigners. The Pro-Amendment campaigners intimidated ordinary voters, who would not have thought at all that TDs in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would vote for a law permitting abortion.
Thus about 2/3 of those who went to the polls voted for the 8th Amendment to the Constitution in late 1983.

While the Pro-Amendment campaigners had claimed that they would not do this, soon after the amendment was made they started to take legal cases to stop student organisations providing information on abortion clinics in Britain to students. The High Court ordered student unions not to give such information.

The X case came in early 1992.
X was aged 14. A man raped her, she became pregnant, and she planned suicide if it continued. Her parents asked Gardaí how the abortion clinic in Britain would send a sample from the fetus for the rape case. The Gardaí asked the Director of Public Prosecutions for advice; the Director spoke to the Attorney-General; the Attorney-General then asked the High Court to stop her travelling out of Ireland, and the judge made an injunction to stop X leaving the State for 9 months.
The Supreme Court soon after allowed X to travel, because 4 of the 5 judges said this: if it is probable that there is a real and substantial risk the mother will die, termination of pregnancy is legal in Ireland. But 3 of the 5 judges agreed that the 8th amendment could stop you going abroad if there is no risk of death.

The 13th, 14th amendments – Injunctions against travel shocked the government. Just as it was a genuine insult to politicians in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in 1981-1983 that they might introduce an abortion law, the taoiseach of 1992 Albert Reynolds (FF) seemed genuinely shocked that women could be legally stopped from going abroad for an abortion. In referendums in late 1992, the people added 2 extra sentences to Article 40.3.3 (2/3 of votes cast approved). By approving the 13th amendment, 2/3 of the people agreed that they want someone who is pregnant to be allowed choose to terminate it, though in another country.

There was a 12th amendment referendum on the same day, to remove suicide as a ground for termination. Voters rejected this.



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