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Saturday 10 December 2016

Support for abortion vote slips, poll shows

Political parties weigh up issue as majority still demand referendum

Published 22/11/2015 | 02:30

Nonetheless, the desire for a referendum on the issue of abortion is clear cut
Nonetheless, the desire for a referendum on the issue of abortion is clear cut

Public support for a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment has slipped - but a clear majority of voters still want to see greater access to abortion services in Ireland, according to the latest Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll.

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More than half of the electorate want to vote on whether to remove the Eighth Amendment - which gives equal right to life to the mother and the unborn - from the Constitution.

The poll finds that the desire for a change in the country's abortion laws is higher among women and voters under the age of 40.

But in a boost to the Pro-life campaign, support for a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment has slipped in recent months.

Some 56pc of voters say they want to go to the polls over the issue - down from 66pc in June.

There has also been a sizeable drop in support for granting terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities, while fewer people now believe a rape victim should be allowed to access abortion services. But the percentage of voters who say they are opposed to the Government calling a referendum has reached its highest point in over a year.

Some 22pc say they are against a public vote on the issue, compared with 19pc when the same question was asked in June.

And the level of opposition to a referendum is as high as 40pc among those polled over the age of 65.

Over one in five voters (22pc) said they did not know whether a referendum should be held.

The poll shows fluctuating levels of support for abortion in specific circumstances:

• In cases of fatal foetal abnormality (55pc), down nine points since June.

• Where a woman is pregnant as a result of rape (68pc), down four points;

• Where there is the threat of the mother's suicide (60pc), down one point;

• Where there is a medical risk to the mother's life other than suicide (68pc),down four points, and;

• Where there is a threat to the long-term health of the mother (64pc), down five.

Just 31pc say they are in favour of granting an abortion for other reasons than those listed.

Nonetheless, the desire for a referendum on the issue of abortion is clear cut.

The poll findings will be studied closely by the main political parties as they consider how to address the issue in the context of their respective General Election manifestos.

While the Labour Party is expected to demand a referendum on the Eighth Amendment during the course of the next government, there is unease over such a move among many Fine Gael politicians.

And in Fianna Fail, the opposition to a change in the country's abortion laws is even stronger.

Some 999 face-to-face interviews were conducted as part of the poll.

Sunday Independent

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