Monday 18 December 2017

Hectoring Irish people about abortion won't win a referendum

Campaigners on both sides of the abortion debate should speak the language of Middle Ireland, not of ideological zealotry, writes Eilis O'Hanlon

Demonstrators wear repeal clothing at The March for Choice in Dublin, a demonstration demanding change to Ireland's strict abortion laws. Photo: Tom Honan/PA Wire
Demonstrators wear repeal clothing at The March for Choice in Dublin, a demonstration demanding change to Ireland's strict abortion laws. Photo: Tom Honan/PA Wire

Eilis O'Hanlon

This time next year it may all be over. For years the country has been squabbling fiercely over abortion; the issue has divided families and friends, ruining many a social gathering, and regularly turning the Dail and countless TV studios into battlegrounds. Now that a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment, which gives equal weight to the life of an expectant mother and the child in the womb, is finally set to take place next year, an end may be in sight.

At least, that's the theory. In truth, the argument will continue, whatever the result next May or June. There may be a slight hiatus as the losing side slinks off to lick its wounds; but the abortion debate in Ireland is like the so-called national question. It's always with us in one form or another, trying the patience of decent people in the muddled middle, who don't have the total conviction which makes all zealots such tedious company.

It's now more than 40 years since the US Supreme Court's landmark decision in the case of Roe vs Wade, which recognised abortion as a fundamental right under the Constitution, but opponents have not faded away. Even Norma McCorvey, the real woman in Roe vs Wade, who died earlier this year, became a pro-life campaigner in later life. No argument is ever settled in perpetuity. Times change.

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