Most voters back abortion if threat to mother's life
POLL: Coalition face new calls for referendum as survey reveals majority back changes to law
A new Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll published today that confirms widespread support for abortion in certain circumstances has sparked renewed calls for a new referendum on the issue.
The National Women's Council of Ireland this weekend accused the Government of "failing women" as our poll reveals a clear majority of people support abortion in cases where there is a threat to the life or long-term health of the mother.
Some 60pc of those surveyed say abortion is acceptable in cases where the mother is suicidal - the joint highest level of support for terminations in these circumstances recorded in Sunday Independent/Millward Brown polls.
Almost two thirds (63pc) of those surveyed said a termination would be acceptable where there is a fatal foetal abnormality.
And 70pc say abortion is acceptable when there is a medical risk to the mother's life other than suicide, with just one-in-seven against.
Commenting on the poll findings, the director of the National Women's Council, Orla O'Connor, told the Sunday Independent: "The results are very interesting and clearly show a majority of people feel abortion should be available in Ireland when there is a threat to foetal abnormality, rape and to the mother's health.
"Women who have to have abortions in these types of circumstances are being forced to travel outside the country which greatly adds to their trauma. This Government is failing women. People are clearly asking for a referendum - there is no other way around it."
According to the poll, there is a slight increase in the number of voters (up three points to 41pc) who are opposed to abortion in cases where there is not a threat to the life of the mother or the foetus.
Less than a third (32pc) say abortion is acceptable when a mother decides to have a termination for "other reasons" than 'suicide', 'rape', or medical risks to her life.
The poll indicates a slight hardening of anti-abortion attitudes since our last poll on the issue in September last year. But these attitudes soften dramatically when there is a threat to the life of the mother or foetus, or in cases where a woman becomes pregnant as a result of being raped, with 67pc saying an abortion is acceptable in these circumstances.
The same number believes abortion is acceptable when there is a threat to the long-term health of the mother. However a growing number of voters (14pc - up 10pc from our September 2014 poll) insist abortion is unacceptable even if the mother's health is threatened.
Overall, those most opposed to abortion in all circumstances tend to be older, particularly people who are aged over 65, live in rural areas and support Fianna Fail. Broadly speaking, those most in favour of abortion in limited circumstances tend to be younger, Dublin-based and support Sinn Fein. The highest proportion of those in favour of abortion in all circumstances is "undecided" on which political party they support.
Some 3,769 Irish women were forced to travel abroad for an abortion last year, but despite repeated calls for a referendum to change the law the Coalition has generally shied away from the politically thorny issue.
Last December Leo Varakdar publicly criticised the Eighth Amendment, which provides for the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn, in the Dail as being "too restrictive". However Taoiseach Enda Kenny subsequently insisted his Minister for Health was speaking in a personal capacity and ruled out constitutional change, saying: "I don't think we need that kind of divisive debate."
Six weeks ago Labour delegates at the party's national conference in Killarney called for a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
Senator Ivana Bacik said that for 32 years "that amendment has blighted countless lives", with 150,000 women forced to travel outside the country to have an abortion during this time.
At its Ard Fheis last month, Sinn Fein voted for abortion to be allowed in cases where there are fatal foetal abnormalities.