100 legal professionals sign statement opposing abortion law reform

Two former judges are among 100 legal professionals to sign a statement opposing changes to Ireland's strict abortion laws.

Iarfhlaith O'Neill, former High Court judge and chairman of the Referendum Commission (Lisbon Treaty), and European Court of Justice judge Aindrias O Caoimh joined solicitors, barristers and legal academics in putting their names to the document which claims removal of the Eighth Amendment would create abortion on demand.

The statement read: "As lawyers drawn from every level of the profession, both currently in practise and those now working in other fields, we hope that having considered what is at stake in the coming referendum and the far-reaching proposals of Government, our society will conclude that it would be profoundly unjust to withdraw the existing constitutional protections from the unborn."

The statement was signed at an event in Dublin city centre on Thursday.

It added: "It is clear therefore, that what is being proposed is not simply abortion in exceptional cases but a wide-ranging right to abortion."

Citizens will be asked on May 25 whether they want to repeal the Eighth Amendment of Ireland's Constitution, a provision that makes abortion illegal in all but exceptional circumstances.

Voters will be asked whether they want to replace the Eighth Amendment, which gives the mother and unborn an equal right to life, with wording that hands responsibility for setting the country's abortion laws to politicians.

If the public votes to repeal the constitutional provision, the Irish Government intends to table legislation that would permit women to abort within 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Save the 8th campaigners have described legal professionals' support as "significant".

Niamh UiBhriain said: "Judge O'Neill is a widely respected figure who was chosen, because of his expertise, to head up the referendum commission in 2008.

"He is a former judge of the High Court. When he says, along with 99 of his colleagues, that this bill introduces abortion on the same grounds as led to abortion on demand elsewhere, voters should listen - their words are important, clarifying, and very significant."

- PA

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