Ireland: Majority want politicians to be ‘proactive’ on abortion – poll

Amnesty Ireland executive director Colm O’Gorman. Nearly four out of 10 people are in favour of allowing women the choice to access abortion in Ireland, a poll for the organisation suggests. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

The Irish Times by Elaine Edwards
Survey carried out for human rights group Amnesty suggests 69% see abortion as priority for next government

Almost two thirds of people in Ireland believe politicians should deal “proactively” with the issue of widening access to abortion here, a new poll suggests.

The Amnesty International/Red C poll suggests some 87 per cent of people are in favour of expanding access to abortion, with 72 per cent wanting it decriminalised.

Some 55 per cent agreed that expanding access to abortion should be a priority for the next government. A total of 80 per cent agreed that women’s health should be the priority in any reform of Ireland’s abortion law.

Some 72 per cent believed that the fact that women must travel for abortions unfairly discriminated against those who cannot afford to or were unable to travel.

More than half (55 per cent) of people described Ireland’s abortion laws as “cruel and inhumane”. This rose to 68 per cent when the ‘don’t knows’ and those who are neutral are excluded.

A majority (66 per cent) of those polled said it was “hypocritical” that the Constitution banned abortion here but allowed women to travel abroad for one.

Some 73 per cent agreed the government should hold a referendum to allow people vote on whether or not to remove the 8th amendment, which gives effect to the abortion ban.

But some 52 per cent also said they did not know enough about the 8th amendment to know how they would vote on it and said the media should give better information.

A total of 48 per cent polled agreed strongly with the statement that they would vote yes to remove the 8th amendment. A further 11 per cent agreed slightly with the statement.

Some 54 per cent in total said they would vote yes to removing the 8th amendment only if there was legislation putting in place reasonable restrictions on access to abortion.

The most trusted sources of information on abortion were medical professionals (69 per cent) and women who have had abortions (62 per cent). The least trusted were politicians (7 per cent), media outlets (14 per cent), anti-abortion groups (16 per cent) and church leaders (16 per cent).

Just 14 per cent of respondents were aware that having an abortion when the woman’s life was not in danger is a criminal offence carrying a potential 14-year prison sentence.

Amnesty said on Friday that people in Ireland had made clear that the incoming government must make expanding access to abortion a priority.

Executive director of Amnesty International in Ireland, Colm O’Gorman, said the poll demonstrated “yet again, that on the issue of abortion, Ireland’s people are way ahead of their political leaders”.

“Despite the dishonest efforts of many opposed to reform, the poll found that 80 per cent of people are aware that women have a right to access abortion in certain circumstances under international human rights law,” Mr O’Gorman said.

He said the poll revealed that “far from this being a divisive issue as some suggest”, people in Ireland were “clear and solid in their support of increased access to abortion”.

Mr O’Gorman asked that those who form the next government “do not, please, spin the narrative again that this is a divisive issue and that Irish people don’t know what they think”.

Presenting the results, Red C Research and Marketing managing director Richard Colwell said that contrary to what might have been assumed, people’s religion did not significantly impact on their views on abortion.
“In fact, 82 per cent of those who consider themselves religious agreed that their religious views should not be imposed on others. Only one in five people (20 per cent) who consider themselves to be religious say that they have “very conflicted” views on abortion because of their religion.”

The Pro Life Campaign said the findings were “much more ambivalent and uncertain” than the way they had been presented.
Deputy chair Cora Sherlock noted the poll suggested the public trusted the voices of women who have had abortions more than other participants in the debate.

“The experiences of women who regret their abortions must be given a proper hearing going forward.,” she said.

The poll, conducted by Red C on February 1st to 3rd and February 18th to 22nd, aimed to establish “a deeper understanding of public attitudes to Ireland’s laws on abortion”.

A nationally representative sample of over 1,000 people was polled on each occasion. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results weighted to the profile of all adults.