Divided reaction to ruling on rights of the unborn

Reaction to the Supreme Court ruling on the rights of the unborn was swift and divided. Pro-choice advocates welcomed it, while anti-abortion campaigners said it was rushed and that it exposed Government “hostility” to the unborn child.

The National Women’s Council of Ireland, the Abortion Rights Campaign, and the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment jointly welcomed the ruling, saying it provided the certainty to proceed with a referendum.

Linda Kavanagh, of the Abortion Rights Campaign, said: “Nothing now stands in the way of this referendum, as promised by the Government.”

Orla O’Connor, of the NWCI, said she hoped the Government would bring the referendum bill before the Dail, without delay.

“We know people are looking for controlled change of our laws on abortion. They want to protect women’s health and wellbeing, and ensure that doctors can care for their patients here in Ireland. This is only possible if we remove the Eighth Amendment,” she said.

Ailbhe Smith, of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, said now that there was legal clarity, the group would campaign vigorously to remove the “problematic” amendment.

The Pro-Life Campaign, however, said the Supreme Court’s decision highlighted the need to retain the Eighth Amendment to safeguard against unlimited abortion. Prof William Binchy said: “The court has made it clear that unborn babies, up to birth, would have no constitutional protection against the legislation that the Government intends to introduce.”

Maria Steen, of Christian thinktank the Iona Institute, said it was “extremely sad” that the Government had decided to appeal to the Supreme Court, after the High Court ruled the unborn child had constitutional rights beyond simply the right to life.

“It shows the overt hostility of the Government towards the unborn child. It wants these children to have no constitutional rights, whatsoever,” she said.

Niamh Uí Bhriain, of Save the 8th, also said it was now more important than ever that the referendum be rejected. “The ruling exposes the true agenda of the government proposals: to remove all constitutional protections for unborn children, while masking it as a proposal to protect the rights of women.”

The Catholic bishops did not comment, but in a statement ahead of their spring meeting this week, they suggested voters should not be swayed by the Supreme Court.

“Every one of us has a right to our life. It is not given to us by the Constitution of Ireland or by any law,” they said.

Save the 8th is leading a “rally for life” in Dublin city centre this Saturday. The Repeal the Eighth Coalition, meanwhile, is having a march to coincide with International Women’s Day, also in Dublin, this evening, at 5.30pm.

Immigrant rights groups said they were studying the section of the ruling which stated that the minister for justice must consider any potential rights a child born in Ireland would have, when deciding on deportations. The ruling has possible implications for expectant parents facing deportation, as a child born here is considered to have rights of access to their parents.

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