There are signs that the reality of what repeal would mean in practice is starting to sink in with some politicians, writes Cora Sherlock
The Dáil this week completed its preliminary debate on the report of the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment. It’s clear at this stage that a majority of TDs will vote to allow a referendum take place on whether the Eighth Amendment should be retained or not. However, the precise wording of the proposition that we will be asked to vote on, most likely in May or June of this year, is not yet known.
What we do know is that the Joint Committee report contains recommendations that represent the most extreme parliamentary assault on the right to life of unborn babies in the history of the State.
Much of the political and media focus to date has centred on one recommendation in particular – permitting abortion for any reason in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
While this recommendation is horrifying in and of itself it is being used by some to distract from the real issue which is the proposal to repeal the Eighth Amendment itself. Any legislation that would follow repeal could change at any time so any debate at this stage on whether that legislation would be restrictive or permissive is irrelevant.
The fact is if repeal happens the Constitution will be effectively silent on the issue of protecting the right to life of unborn babies. The legislation that would follow could be worded in a very restrictive way for the first year after any referendum and within a short time after that it could be amended to take away any remaining legal protections for the right to life that were included to get the repeal referendum over the line.
At that point, it would be too late for well-meaning people to try and hold back the tide. With nothing in the Constitution providing protection for unborn babies, there would be no defence against the clamour to strip the remaining protections.
There are signs that the reality of what repeal would mean in practice is starting to sink in with some politicians who up until now seemed content to go along with it. We need these TDs to now stand firm.
But others in Government will attempt to tone down the final proposal presented to the public for no other reason than to ensure its passage in the referendum. The changes they make will be nothing but cosmetic as repealing the Eighth Amendment is where all the damage would be done to the future protection of unborn babies.
From talking to members of the public since the report of the Dáil committee was issued in December, I have detected a growing sense of unease and a greater awareness of what is going on.
When it’s pointed out to people that the political process to date has completely ignored all the personal testimonies about lives saved by the Eighth Amendment they are taken aback. When members of the public hear that one in every five pregnancies in England now ends in abortion, most people are horrified.
Bypassing the mainstream media groupthink and engaging directly with people on a one to one basis is the key to safeguarding the Eighth Amendment. Each one of us need to play our part in making this happen.
It is vital that the Eighth Amendment be retained in full and that the constitutional protection for the right to life of both mother and baby is not dismantled and destroyed.
Not only would that be the very antithesis of a democracy that purports to cherish all the children of the nation equally, it would also represent a genuine humanitarian tragedy.
The great Italian philosopher Blessed Antonio Rosmini once described private property rights as a bulwark against tyranny and “a shield around the person”. The Eighth Amendment is our shield around the person, born and unborn. We should cherish it and protect it as the beacon of authentic human rights that it is.
We can win the referendum in May or June, of that there is no question. But it will only happen if each one of us puts our fears to one side and commits to engaging with our friends and families on the issue. Starting today!
Cora Sherlock is a spokesperson for the Pro Life Campaign.