More than 240 artists have joined the campaign to make abolishing the eighth amendment a central issue in next year’s general election.
They include playwright Enda Walsh, filmmaker Neil Jordan, as well as artists Cecily Brennan, Eithne Jordan, and Alice Maher, and poet Paula Meehan, who announced the Artists’ Campaign to Repeal the Eighth Amendment at a press conference in Dublin yesterday.
Appealing to others to sign the statement, the artists said that the eighth amendment has resulted in physical and emotional trauma to women.
Ms Meehan read the statement, which has been signed by hundreds of artists “living in all corners of Ireland, from all class backgrounds, from a variety of cultural outlooks”.
The gender split of signatories is 50/50 female and male, and it represents artists of all ages — the youngest in their 20s and the oldest in their late 80s.
In their statement, the artists say: “The eighth amendment of the Constitution of Ireland, Article 40.3.3 inserted in 1983, has prevented our doctors and our legislators from providing proper care to women in Ireland. The resulting physical and emotional trauma inflicted on women is inexcusable and an ongoing shame for Irish citizens.
“The eighth amendment undermines the status of the Irish Constitution. It is a key source of Ireland’s failure to reach international human rights standards and of the State’s failure to vindicate women’s human rights.
“We, the undersigned artists, call for... action by our elected legislators to provide women in Ireland with modern reproductive health services in line with best medical practice and international human rights norms.”
The artists are supporting a coalition of groups that have come together to campaign for a repeal of the eighth amendment. The coalition claims that public opinion in Ireland has shifted towards being more pro-choice.
Ailbhe Smyth, the coalition’s convener, said: “Since the death of Savita Halappanavar (2012) and the introduction of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act (2013), opinion poll after opinion poll has shown a groundswell of support for repeal. This is why we are deeply disappointed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s comments that Fine Gael would not favour abolishing the eighth amendment without considering what would replace it. The Taoiseach’s views are seriously out of step with the majority of voters in this country.”
Cora Sherlock, deputy chairwoman of the Pro Life Campaign, said it was very easy for a group of artists to issue a statement calling for repeal of the eighth amendment while side-stepping the brutal reality of abortion laws in other states.
“The statement from the artists talks about Ireland’s obligation to live up to ‘international human rights standards’,” Ms Sherlock said.
“One assumes that means having similar abortion laws to countries like England, where abortion is legal up to birth and where babies are routinely born alive after failed abortions and left to die in corners of hospitals without receiving any medical care.
“These are not horrors invented by pro-life activists. They are the barbaric results of a culture that pays nothing more than lip-service to the humanity of the unborn child and ignores the devastation and emotional hurt and heartbreak abortion causes for many women.
“The eighth amendment is being blamed for everything at present whenever abortion is in the news. That’s unacceptable. Some semblance of balance needs to be introduced into this debate.
“Right now, the one-sided nature of the debate is utterly farcical.”