The Pro Life Campaign has deemed tonight’s announcement from the Government on the Eighth Amendment "as bad as anyone could have envisaged: the removal of legal protection from unborn babies and providing for abortion on demand".
Pro Life Campaign spokesperson, Dr Ruth Cullen said: "It is a very sad and serious moment for our country. Tonight, the Government brought forward a proposal that for the first time in our history would withdraw basic human rights from a group of vulnerable defenceless individuals instead of strengthening their constitutional protections. They can't disguise the fact that what’s being proposed is solely about stripping unborn babies of all meaningful legal protections.
“The right to life is an inalienable right. It’s not something that can be conferred or withheld by the State at its pleasure. The Eighth Amendment acknowledges this basic right to life; it doesn’t claim to be its initiator – merely its protector."
Dr Cullen added: “In the coming weeks, it will become clear that the Government’s proposal would lead to abortion on demand if voted for in the referendum. As people come to realise this, I have every confidence they will vote to retain the Eighth Amendment with a renewed commitment to building a more welcoming society for expectant mothers and their unborn babies.”
The Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) have welcomed the Government’s decision to hold a referendum on the Eighth Amendment, but have warned the Government that they "will not accept any fudges or half-measures".
Spokesperson Linda Kavanagh said: “While ARC has always campaigned for repeal simpliciter as advised by the Joint Oireachtas Committee, it appears that the enabling provision proposed by the Government will remove the constitutional barrier to abortion care and allow for more progressive and compassionate healthcare to be provided for all those who can get pregnant.”
“We would still prefer if abortion care was not singled out in our Constitution, but we are willing to support this provision, if worded properly, and heed the legal advice given by the Attorney General.
“However we will be watching the Government very closely and encouraging our members and supporters to do the same in the weeks ahead with regards to the wording of a referendum bill and the proposed legislation.
"Generations of people have fought too long and too hard for change in our abortion laws, and we will not accept any fudges or half-measures. Modern, accessible and compassionate abortion care must be a guaranteed outcome of the referendum passing – that is non-negotiable.”
“We are looking forward to an energetic, compassionate, and respectful referendum campaign. We are repealing the 8th Amendment because we want an Ireland where everyone has access to compassionate, timely, local healthcare.”
The Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment has welcomed the Cabinet’s agreement to hold a referendum on the Eighth Amendment.
The referendum will ask citizens whether they want to retain the Eighth Amendment of the constitution, or repeal it and replace it with an enabling provision that gives responsibility for legislating on abortion laws to the Dáil.
Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment said: “It is the Government’s intention to propose new wording for insertion in the Constitution, which would explicitly empower the Oireachtas to legislate for the provision of abortion in Ireland. It is our view that given the historically complicated nature of debate on the issue in Ireland, the Government has an obligation to explain the reasons for inserting a new ‘enabling clause’ in the Constitution in the clearest possible terms."
The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced that it will be held at the end of May.
Ms Smyth said: “We welcome the Cabinet’s formal agreement this evening to hold a referendum on the Eighth Amendment and the Taoiseach’s announcement that he will be campaigning to repeal the eighth. This is a momentous point in our campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
“Since its establishment, the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment has advocated for straightforward deletion of the Eighth Amendment as we believe that the Constitution is not the place to regulate reproductive healthcare. In the 35 years since its insertion, the Amendment has proved to be legally confusing, medically unworkable and profoundly detrimental to women’s lives, health, and well-being.
“Tonight’s announcement is a real step forward to repealing the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution. We look forward to seeing the full details of what is proposed by the Cabinet and to giving it our full consideration. We urge the Government to lose no time in setting a firm date for the holding of the referendum.”
Amnesty International have said they are "heartened" at the Government’s decision tonight.
Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, said: "We are heartened at today’s government backing for legislation framed around a 12-week ‘on request’ model for abortion access, with later gestational limits in specific circumstances. This is a further sign of real political will to put women’s and girls’ bodily autonomy firmly at the centre of abortion law reform. We further welcome the Taoiseach’s personal endorsement of this legislative model as the best way to ensure effective access to this healthcare.
”We welcome the government’s decision to schedule a referendum in May this year. We are on the cusp of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to use our voices and votes to stand up for the human rights and equality of women and girls. We are a different country from the one that voted for the Eighth Amendment back in 1983. For many of us, it will be our first opportunity to have our say on this important issue, and to build a society whose laws reflect our values of care, compassion and respect. We can make a clear statement about the kind of society we want to be. An Ireland is in sight where women have control of their own reproductive lives.
“It is vital that people are provided with the information they need to make an informed choice in the forthcoming referendum. We saw what happened in the Joint Oireachtas Committee and the Citizens’ Assembly when expert evidence and reason won over disinformation and ideology. When people have the facts, putting women’s health and autonomy at the centre of abortion law is the logical and compassionate response."