What actually is the Eighth Amendment?

The Eighth Amendment is the last remaining legal protection for children in the womb. The amendment was passed by the majority of Irish people (67%) only thirty years ago, as a response to what was happening in other countries.

The Eighth Amendment – our ‘Life Equality Amendment’ – acknowledges “the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right”.

It means that pregnant women and babies have the same right to life in the eyes of the law. But doctors can intervene to save the life of the mother even if the intervention causes the unintentional death of her baby. Medical interventions of this nature to save the life of a pregnant woman are never considered an abortion.

With the passing of the 2013 Abortion Bill, abortion became legal up to nine months of pregnancy if a woman is threatening suicide. Three medical staff need to sign off on the abortion – two psychiatrists and one obstetrician.

The problem with this law is that there are no clinical markers for suicide – it is impossible to tell if a person is suicidal or not.

The law requiring three signatures appears restricted but the reality is that this has not prevented widespread abortion in other countries. In the UK, two doctors are required to sign off and they still have one of the highest rates of abortion worldwide.

Removing the Eighth Amendment would result in massive and ongoing pressure being put on Government to pass wider and wider abortion legislation. Repealing the Eighth Amendment would mean doctors owe no duty of care to the unborn child.