Repealing the Eighth Amendment
The Republic of Ireland this month faces a historic referendum on the future of abortion in the country. Michael Nevill and Clare Murphy set out the issues at stake and the implications for the UK
On 25 May 2018, the Republic of Ireland will hold a referendum to decide whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment, a constitutional provision that effectively amounts to an all-out ban on abortion in the country.
If Ireland votes yes, it will pave the way to a new abortion framework, likely allowing abortion on request up to 12 weeks and on the basis of fetal or maternal indications thereafter. Women themselves would be completely removed from any criminal implications.
The result of the referendum could be the end of a long journey, both for the women who for decades have travelled to England when faced with an unplanned pregnancy or a pregnancy they could not continue, and the campaigners who have fought so hard for so many years for change. However, we are not at the end of the road yet.
As is so often the case, it takes a wholly avoidable tragedy to accelerate the pace of change, which came with the death of Savita Halappanavar, who was experiencing a late miscarriage, in Ireland in 2012. Health professionals felt that they could not intervene to accelerate the process in a pregnancy clearly doomed, as the fetal heart was still beating. She died of septicaemia.
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