In a March statement, Ireland’s Catholic bishops asked people of faith to ‘pray earnestly’ that Ireland will ‘choose life’ in an upcoming abortion referendum.
And they warned that repealing the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees the equal right to life of mother and unborn:
Would leave unborn children at the mercy of whatever permissive abortion laws might be introduced in Ireland in the future.
The bishops said making abortion freely available :
Desensitises people to the value of every human life. The scientific evidence about the beginning of human life has never been clearer. It is, therefore, a great irony that we in Ireland are for the first time in our history losing our clarity about the right to life of the unborn.
They added that to remove the Eighth Amendment – which had been introduced mainly as a result of pressure exerted by the Catholic Church – would be “a shocking step” and “a manifest injustice” to the unborn.
Well, prayers didn’t work when the referendum was held yesterday, and, according to the BBC, exit polls are suggesting a landslide vote in favour of liberalising the law.
Polls by The Irish Times and RTÉ suggested about 69 percent voted to repeal a part of the constitution that effectively bans terminations.
One of the main anti-abortion campaigns has already conceded defeat.
Said John McGuirk, above, Communications Director of the anti-abortion Save The 8th campaign:
The unborn child no longer has a right to life recognised by the Irish state.
Deeply broken-hearted. Shortly, legislation will be introduced that will allow babies to be killed in our country.
However, he vowed that No campaigners would continue to protest:
If and when abortion clinics are opened in Ireland. Every time an unborn child has his or her life ended in Ireland, we will oppose that, and make our voices known.
The Eighth Amendment was introduced 1983. The Catholic hierarchy and many lay Catholics supported the amendment, but it was opposed by the authorities of other mainstream churches. After an acrimonious referendum campaign, the amendment was passed by 67 percent voting in favour to 33 percent voting against.
Ahead of yesterday’s referendum, US News reported that a vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment ban would:
Underline the waning political power of the Roman Catholic Church, once so dominant in areas of social policy and sexual mores that, until recently, the Republic of Ireland banned not only abortion but divorce and contraception.
It was only in 1985 that the Irish government, against strong opposition from the Church and its lay campaigners, legalised the general sale of condoms.
In 1995, by a whisker-thin majority, the public voted to drop a constitutional ban on divorce, again despite strong resistance from Catholic bishops and lay groups.
Three years ago, on a rising liberal tide, 62 percent of voters ignored pleas from the Catholic and Presbyterian churches and endorsed a referendum legalising gay marriage – the first Western electorate to do so by popular vote.