Call on new government to change abortion law

Call on new government to change abortion law

Nearly 90 per cent of Irish people want Ireland’s abortion laws liberalized, says Amnesty

An Irish opinion poll carried out for human rights group Amnesty International says that almost 87 per cent of people want a change in Ireland’s strict abortion laws.

The Red C survey for Amnesty International said 38 per cent of respondents supported a woman’s right to choose to end a pregnancy in any circumstance, an increase of 10 percentage points compared to a similar poll in 2011.

Forty-nine per cent supported access to abortion in certain circumstances, 7 per cent wanted to keep the law as it is and 5 per cent of people said they were totally against abortion.

Eighty-seven per cent wanted the law to be changed, the figure comprised 38 per cent of people who thought women should have a right to termination “as they choose”; 42 per cent who would permit terminations in cases of rape, incest, fatal foetal abnormalities or a threat to the woman’s health; and 7 per cent who would allow them in cases of fatal foetal abnormality only.

Seven per cent were in favour of leaving the law to allow abortion only where the woman’s life was at risk. Five per cent wanted to change the law to forbid any terminations at all.

Nearly a third said they were afraid to speak openly about their opinion. The survey found 72 per cent of people believe abortion should be decriminalised in Ireland, but 37 per cent did not realise this would entail a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment to Ireland’s Constitution (Bunreacht na hEireann).

The poll, taken in the last days of last month’s general election campaign in Ireland, found the majority of people wanted a referendum on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. Seventy-three per cent of the 1,004 respondents wanted a vote on the legislation in which the life of the mother is considered equal to the life of the unborn foetus. Sixty-three per cent wanted politicians to “show leadership”.

Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland Colm O’Gorman (pictured), said the survey findings meant TDs could no longer insist that abortion is too divisive to be addressed in the new Dail which meets for the first time this week.

“If we have paralysis on forming a government over the next month, you’re talking about 330 women and girls travelling to the UK in that time. If we have another year of inaction, we’re talking about 4,000 women and girls forced to leave this country to access a health intervention that people in this state understand they have a human right to access.”

“Eighty per cent of people in Ireland want to see safe and legal access to abortion for all women and girls, at the very least where there’s a risk to the life and health of the woman, in cases of pregnancies as the result of rape or incest or in cases of fatal foetal abnormality,” he said.

Abortion is illegal in Ireland except in extremely limited circumstances where the woman’s life is under substantial risk, including a risk of suicide.

Terminating a pregnancy in all other circumstances, including those resulting from rape or incest, is punishable by 14 years in prison.

Before the election Taoiseach Enda Kenny had said he would set up a citizen’s forum to consider a referendum on Ireland’s abortion laws within six months of Fine Gael being returned to power.

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