Eighth Amendment: a watershed on abortion
In drawing up a referendum wording and draft legislation, the Government has more scope than many believed
Dec 14, 2017
One of the peculiarities of the Irish debate on abortion in the early 1980s – a debate that was to culminate, but not find resolution, in the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution – was that it was the anti-abortion side that set the terms. In the United States and mainland Europe, the momentum in those years was generated by pro-choice lobbies, but in Ireland the current moved in the opposite direction. Those who sought a more restrictive regime initially did all the running, and in time, by out-organising their opponents on the ground and skilfully playing politicians off against one another, they succeeded in having a ban on abortion written into the Constitution. Their fear was always that future, more liberal judges or politicians could move ahead of public opinion and pave the way for legal abortion.