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Focus turns to abortion referendum

FACE-OFF: Pro and anti-abortion protesters in Dublin last year
Michael McHugh

MOMENTUM is building for a referendum on repealing the eighth amendment governing abortion, campaigners said.

Labour pledged to overturn the law as part of its manifesto. The party said it would reinstate the constitutional convention next year and provide it with more time to consider broad issues in

greater detail.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has pledged to hold a constitutional review of the bitterly divisive issue if re-elected.

Alison Begas is chief executive of the Dublin Well Woman Centre, which supports thousands of women a year with crisis pregnancy advice and other services.

“There is a real momentum now and a generation of younger women and younger activists pushing for the repeal of the amendment and highlighting how it is a barrier to women's healthcare, women's well being and women's rights to control their own bodies,” she said.

“There is momentum building to call for a referendum.”

She said a lot of politicians were saying they could not go for a referendum as they did not know what they would replace it with.

Ms Begas claimed the state had no role in regulating people's health care and said a referendum was inevitable.

The Pro-Life Campaign said it was a non-denominational human rights organisation, drawing its support from a cross-section of Irish society.

It described the eighth amendment to the Constitution as Ireland's original life equality amendment.

“Notwithstanding the abortion legislation of 2013, the eighth amendment provides the last remaining protection for the unborn child in Ireland and must be robustly defended.”

Patricia Cusack (19) from Limerick was canvassing for student elections at Trinity College. She sympathised with thousands of women who travelled for England for the procedure.

“I think if you don't want an abortion that is fine but if you want an abortion you should have the right and ability to do so and not be forced to move and not tell your parents.”

In 2014 a woman declared clinically brain dead was granted permission by a court to be taken off life support because there was no genuine prospect of her baby being born alive.

The last constitutional convention, chaired by former Concern Ireland head Tom Arnold, was a key aim in the Programme for Government announced in March 2011.

The original target to complete the work within a year was not met and many of its recommendations were not put to referendum.

Labour said the constitution must be a living and breathing document, regularly adapted to ensure it reflects society and its values.

“We will continue to seek the permission of the people to make constitutional changes that will enhance their rights.”

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