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Thursday 13 December 2018

1861-2017: the divisive history of abortion

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil chief whips Sean Barrett and Bertie Ahern during the 1983 campaign
Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil chief whips Sean Barrett and Bertie Ahern during the 1983 campaign

1861: Abortion is made a criminal offence in Ireland under the Offences Against the Person Act.

1983: Referendum on the Eighth Amendment is passed by a two-to-one margin. The resulting Article 40.3.3 in the Constitution guarantees equal status to the lives of a mother and unborn child.

1991: Ireland signs the EU Maastricht Treaty, but gets guarantee its abortion law will not be affected.

1992: X Case begins. High Court grants Attorney General an injunction preventing a 14-year-old girl, pregnant as a result of rape, from travelling to the UK for an abortion. The Supreme Court lifts the injunction - ruling that, if there was a real risk to the mother's life, as distinct to her health, abortion would be lawful. A suicide threat was deemed a real risk to life. Two referendums passed to grant the rights to travel and information. A third amendment to remove suicide as a ground for abortion was rejected.

1997: In the C Case, another raped and pregnant teenager was granted right to an abortion in the UK.

2002: Fianna Fáil proposes referendum permitting abortion to save a mother's life but removing suicide as grounds. Voters reject it.

2010: European Human Rights Court ruled Ireland failed to respect the private life of Ms C.

2012: In response to the European Court of Human Rights ruling, Enda Kenny's government begins a long process of consultation.

2013: The government enacts the 'Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act' which gave legal effect to the 1992 X Case ruling. Abortion is now available where a mother's life is at risk, including from a suicide threat.

June 2017: Leo Varadkar pledges referendum on 1983 abortion provision. Committee of TDs and senators begins preparatory work.

Irish Independent

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