Poll: 87% of Irish people support wider access to abortion

The vast majority of people in Ireland want abortion decriminalised and access expanded, a poll for Amnesty International has found.

The survey of people during the general election showed almost two-thirds of people want politicians to show leadership and deal proactively with the controversial issue.

Colm O’Gorman, director of the human rights group in Ireland, said the incoming government is being told to make abortion reform a priority. “This poll demonstrates yet again that on the issue of abortion, Ireland’s people are way ahead of their political leaders,” he said.

“The incoming government cannot ignore the fact that the vast majority of Irish people want women’s human rights to be respected. It must prioritise the expansion of access to abortion in Ireland without delay.”

The Red C survey found: n 69% of people called for expansion of Ireland’s abortion law to be a priority issue for the next government, when ‘don’t knows’ and those who were neutral are excluded. n 68% described the ban on abortion as “cruel and inhumane”, also when undecideds and neutrals are excluded. n Politicians, anti-abortion groups, media and church leaders are the least trusted sources of information on the issue. n 87% of people want access to abortion expanded and 72% want it decriminalised. n More than half agreed that Ireland’s abortion laws are cruel and inhumane.

Amnesty said there were progressive views on abortion across all regions and socio-economic groups.

It said the survey showed two thirds of people think it is hypocritical for the constitution to ban abortion in Ireland while it is legal for women to travel abroad for the procedure.

Amnesty said the research showed that almost three-quarters of people surveyed believe the fact that women must travel for abortions discriminates against those who cannot afford to or are unable to travel.

Mr O’Gorman said: “Almost three-quarters of respondents believe the Government should hold a referendum to allow people an opportunity to vote on whether or not to remove the Eighth Amendment.”

In the election campaign Labour vowed to hold a referendum on the constitutional ban, as did Sinn Féin. The Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit grouping and the Social Democrats also favour removing the ban.

Fine Gael is much more cautious, preferring a constitutional convention to thrash out the issues, and Fianna Fáil is opposed to the idea, declaring the issue is not a priority for the party.

The survey also found that of those in favour of expanding access to abortion in Ireland, 7% want it limited to fatal foetal abnormalities.

Cora Sherlock of the Pro-Life Campaign rejected Mr O’Gorman’s interpretation of the poll. “Take the result showing 80% of respondents believe women’s health must be the priority in any reform of Ireland’s abortion law. That’s a finding the Pro Life Campaign would wholeheartedly endorse. If it were acted upon, it would lead to the repeal of the 2013 abortion law that ignored all the medical evidence showing that abortion is not a treatment for suicidal feelings and can in fact be detrimental to women’s health.”

She said that the poll was “obviously timed to influence negotiations” on the formation of a government.

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