Two thirds favour decriminalising abortion, claims poll

Two thirds favour decriminalising abortion, claims poll

Two thirds of the Irish public are in favour of decriminalising abortion, according to the results of a new poll.

The survey shows that 67% want the Government to end criminal penalties for women who have terminations - with 25% in favour of keeping the law as it stands.

Less than one in 10 (9%) believe the current penalty of up to 14 years in prison is fair.

The poll was conducted among more than 1,000 telephone interviews among a nationally representative sample of the adult population between May 11-14 by Red C on behalf of Amnesty International.

Two thirds favour decriminalising abortion, claims poll

It is said to be accurate to within a 3% margin of error.

Bryan Cox, Director at Red C Research and Marketing said: "81% percent of people were in favour of access to abortion beyond the current Irish legal position.

"This comprises the 36% who believe abortion should be allowed where the woman’s life is at risk, the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, where the woman’s health is at risk, or where there is a fatal foetal abnormality, and the 45% who would go further and allow women to access abortion as they choose.

"9% were in favour of access just where the woman’s life is at risk, the current legal position."

Amnesty International Ireland’s executive director Colm O’Gorman says that even among those most stridently against abortion - there is an appetite for some change to the law.

Two thirds favour decriminalising abortion, claims poll

"When you look at people's support, for instance, for the 14-year prison sentence, even among those opposed to abortion in all circumstances, among that group, and they were a small group, 7% of people polled, only 31% of them support the 14-year prison sentence," he said.

Deputy chairperson of the Pro Life Campaign, Cora Sherlock, said that this had little relevance from a practical point of view.

Two thirds favour decriminalising abortion, claims poll

"Amnesty Ireland knows perfectly well that women are not prosecuted for having abortions," she said.

"If anyone is likely to be prosecuted it would be the practising abortionist who breaks the law. Amnesty is purposely trying to create an impression that Irish women run the risk of going to jail if they opt for an abortion but they very conveniently fail to point out that similar sanctions exist in other European countries but, just like in Ireland, women are never prosecuted.”

Many anti-abortion campaigners criticised the Amnesty International for stepping into the domestic debate last month.

Those criticisms were again made today in response to the publication of the report.

"It’s now abundantly clear that Amnesty’s recent report on Ireland’s abortion laws was selective and skewed in pushing a pro-choice agenda. There wasn’t even the slightest attempt made to ensure balance," said Ms Sherlock.

"Amnesty is now a fully-fledged campaigning group on one side of the abortion issue. It is no longer the unprejudiced and even-handed organisation that won the public’s trust and respect."

However, Mr O’Gorman said that Amnesty is well within its rights to contribute to the debate.

"We're not going to debate in that tit-for-tat kind of debate, it's not helpful," he said.

"In many ways, it's the reason why we haven't been able to move forward in Ireland for the last 30 years or so, because the debate gets hijacked by those on the extreme ends of the debate.

"Frankly to suggest that a human rights organisation shouldn't talk about the human rights of women and girls in Ireland is a nonsense."

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