..back to Referendum on Abortion
               ..back to home
A national coalition of pro-women's rights, pro-family, and pro-life groups

7 March 2002
On the result of the Referendum:



The deciding factor of this referendum has been the impact of the Pro-life "NO" Vote.

When it became clear to pro-life people throughout Ireland that the referendum on offer was not the one so many people worked so hard for, for so long, there was an initial sense of sadness and a feeling of betrayal of the unborn whose right to life the institutions of the State are obligated to vindicate and defend.

This was further compounded as people began to realise that once again the core values that the Irish Nation stands for were being deliberately denied.  A line was being drawn, before which life had no protection
This "implantation" proposal was a serious and significant departure from the long held principle, supported by scientific fact,  that life begins at conception/fertilisation.  This resulted in a united response that the unborn must be properly protected in law from the moment of conception, leading to the establishment of new groups, such as Ireland for Life and European Life Network, committed to vigorously pursuing that aim.

These and other new groups, together with some existing groups and the two Christian political parties, the Christian Democrats and the Christian Solidarity Party, comprise the Alliance for All Life.  This new Alliance also shares common ground on seeking guarantee for protection of the pre-implanted embryo, with the "Mother and Child" group and Dana Rosemary Scallon MEP .

From the outset A Pro-Life "NO" voice existed thereby producing three sides to the debate - A Pro Life No, A pro Life Yes and A Pro Abortion/"Choice" position, divided between Yes and No.

The Pro-life "No" voice, courageously expressed their determination and commitment to uphold the right to life of the unborn child from the moment of conception and have firmly placed this issue on the agenda.

The tactics of government to limit the term unborn to the time "after implantation" rather than from conception were unacceptable - indeed the term "unborn" remains undefined. It should also be noted that throughout the referendum campaign government attempted to blackmail voters into supporting the amendment by threatening to legislate if the amendment was not passed  - while at the same time somehow proclaiming  to be pro-life.

Voters had also to contend with the constant misrepresentation of our case by those opposed to us.  It was asserted that we considered that the proposals did not provide adequate protection.  Our viewpoint was radically different to this: we were concerned about the removal of existing protection, or in the words of Mr Rory O'Hanlon, former judge of the High Court, the proposals would "greatly worsen the legal protection afforded unborn human life"

It is emphasised that the Pro-Life "NO" stance was  not in any way a stance in favour of legislation for the "X" case:  it  was simply a stance against the proposals which were on the table. There is absolute unanimity that this newly formed Alliance will also stand firm against any attempt to introduce legislation for the "X" case.

Irrespective of whatever the outcome of the referendum might have been, it is clear that the geography of the pro-life movement in Ireland has changed forever.

The Irish people have now spoken.  And they have spoken in reaffirmation of respect for life. This is a pro-life victory which confirms that the people want protection for the human person  from the very moment of conception. This principle is non-negotiable.

It is now time for all pro-life people to unite and to work together. Now is the time to ensure that our politicians deliver what the people have asked for - clear and unambiguous protection for life from the moment of
conception, while continuing to ensure the maintenance of the present high standard of care for mothers.

As we approach a general election we have an opportunity to make this principle a priority thereby establishing once and for all clear and unambiguous protection for human life from the moment of conception. It is now time for ALL Pro-Life people to put this and any future government on notice that they will not tolerate the enactment of legislation for abortion on the grounds of suicide on the basis of the "X" case and will continue to speak out for the weakest in our society.

Ends                                                                                                         7 March 2002
Pat Buckley, Chairman, NEART   email: neart@eircom.net

1 March 2002
A Trojan Horse II


This is one of the most confusing referendums ever to be presented to the Irish public.  It is one that has been designed primarily to produce a 'Yes' result, rather than as a measure to defend life. The catch-phrase has been "consensus".  Prohibiting (or permitting?) abortion would seem to be a secondary consideration.

In fact, for politicians of all hues that issue is simple: there will be no peace for politicians until abortion is legalized.  It is not only the pro-abortion politicians who have been threatening us with legalization of abortion, the "pro-life" politicians have been doing so as well.  Much has now been put in place towards that end.

But we believe that the Government truly does not want to legalize abortion: it wants the people to legalize it for them.

Hence it is not surprising to find in the proposals little about saving the life of both the mother and the child, and much about the 'destruction' and 'ending' of unborn human life.   It is not a pro-life referendum.

The purpose of any vote on the God-given right to life, where such is to be considered at all, should be clearly directed towards actively defending that right; the Government's abortion proposal is directed otherwise.

An outline of the proposals

There are four main elements to the Government's proposals:

1. The apparent prohibition on suicide as a ground for abortion.
2. The acceptance of "medical" grounds for abortion.
3. The legalization of early abortions.
4. The endorsement of a right to travel for the purpose of abortion.

It is claimed for the proposals that they reverse the 'X' case judgement.  In our opinion, the 'X' case judgement may perhaps be narrowed in one respect (relating to suicide), but it is widened in other respects; and the balance is overwhelmingly to the detriment of the unborn child and the mother.

Apparent prohibition on suicide as a ground for abortion

Expert evidence given to the All Party Oireachtas Committee suggests that it would require corrupt complicity of medical and legal professionals to make extensive use of suicide as a ground for abortion.

The Mother and Child Campaign has rejected as empty the Government's threat to legislate for abortion in cases of threatened suicide, quoting the Taoiseach's statement to Mr Noonan (Q/A 17) that "In 1992, the voters reversed the basis of the Supreme Court's decision [in the 'X' case] by deciding that travel injunctions could not be granted on the basis of a threat to the life of the unborn."

The acceptance of "medical" grounds for abortion

The Government proposals assert that:

"   abortion does not include the carrying out of a medical procedure by a medical practitioner at an approved place in the course of which or as a result of which unborn human life is ended where that procedure is, in the reasonable opinion of the practitioner,  necessary to prevent a real and substantial risk of loss of the woman's life other than by self-destruction."

In our view, this is legislation for the 'X' case, (excluding suicide), and is a liberal interpretation at that. The crucial distinction between "directness of action" and "unintended and indirect consequence" is not made.  The Government proposals could allow direct killing.  The risk to the life of the mother need not be immediate.  The Taoiseach has stated that the procedures cover all conditions raised by medical practitioners "of whatever opinion."  In our opinion, it is wishful thinking to imagine that this questionable provision would hold the line against the challenges that are certain to follow.  Where would we stand then?

It is interesting also to note that the masters of the three main maternity hospitals in Dublin are calling, in their personal capacities, for a 'Yes ' vote on the basis that it "protects obstetric practice where a woman's life is at stake", while at the same time they are reported as also favouring abortion "under strictly controlled conditions, where the foetus could not survive outside the womb".  Ireland is at present one of the safest countries in the world for a woman to deliver her baby.  Could we expect this record to be maintained in an abortion regime?

The legalization of early abortions

The Government proposals would repeal sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861 (OAPA). Together with Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, this Act protects the unborn "from the date of its conception".  The repeal, for which the people would be taking responsibility, would decriminalise early abortion and the sale of abortifacient chemicals and devices, and also permit destructive embryonic experimentation.   Do we have any idea what this would open the door to?

In contrast, Pope John Paul II has recently called for full legal recognition and protection to be given to the human embryo, from the moment of conception.  The stand of the Irish Bishops is puzzling.  Their most recent statements, including that of Bishop Murray, re-iterate the teaching of the Church; yet they are accommodating themselves to a Government proposal that clearly, and intentionally, removes protection from early embryonic human life.

This is an issue at the heart of these proposals.  By criminalizing abortion from implantation only, the Government is seeking to give legitimacy to the notion that life begins only at implantation, a notion that has attractions for commercial, as well as EU agenda, interests.

But everyone knows that life begins at conception, not implantation


In our view, the foregoing is sufficient reason for rejecting the proposals.  But there is another, even more compelling, reason.

The endorsement of a right to travel for the purpose of abortion

The Government proposals effectively claim a right to travel for a purpose that would, "if it occurred in the State, constitute an offence" of abortion.  This takes the 1992 travel amendment a stage further.

To declare in our Constitution that the killing of an Irish person is acceptable outside the State, is to concede that we do not really have a problem with abortion, only with location.  This is not acceptable under any circumstances.

What is a truly pro-life position?

The Government is asking us to allow the direct and intentional destruction of unborn human life, to remove all legal protection for embryonic life in its earliest stages,  and to put into our Constitution an effective right to travel for the specific purpose of abortion, setting aside our moral objection to abortion.

In his written legal opinion, former judge, Mr Rory O'Hanlon, says the proposals are  "clearly intrinsically evil" and would "greatly worsen the legal protection afforded unborn human life".

The proposals must be examined on their own merits, and on those alone. We are not being asked for our reactions to other people's opinions or the threats of politicians.

Looking ahead

The Bishops' acceptance of the proposals is a qualified one.  Although Cardinal Connell has conceded that Catholics may vote against these proposals, we call on the Irish Bishops to re-assess their own support, to have confidence in the people to do the right thing, and to urge them to reject this measure.

For an insubstantial short-term gain, acceptance of the proposals would fatally compromise the pro-life position in the long term.  We therefore call on all pro-life people to re-examine their own position in support of a dishonest and probably unwinnable referendum, to abandon their campaign, and to encourage massive rejection of the measure so as to ensure that rejection is clearly seen as a pro-life and not a pro-abortion rejection.

Some pro-life people ask what will happen if we reject the referendum.  Any new legislation would have to be within the Constitution as it stands, which is more protective of human life than the proposals, as already explained.  Our call for a massive rejection is coupled with a demand for a real pro-life alternative.

We totally reject spurious legislation for abortion on the grounds of claimed suicide, something the people never asked for.

Finally, if Mr Ahern is really pro-life, why is he threatening the pro-life people of this country with something worse?  If he is genuinely pro-life, he should not compromise the truth.

It is our considered opinion that the Irish people should vote NO to these proposals.

Further information on www.abortionreferendum2002 and http://indigo.ie/~imr/

P Buckley, Chairman, NEART

1 March 2002

News Release from NEART
A national coalition of pro-women's rights, pro-family, and pro-life groups

10 December 2001
(The following is an updated and edited version of an article appearing in "The Irish Family" on 23 November 2001.  This evaluation is unaffected by the subsequent statement of the Irish Episcopal Conference of 12 December 2001, which did not bring forward any significant new issues)


NEART, having considered the Government proposals, and having consulted widely nationally and also internationally, have concluded that we must, as Catholics and in conscience, reject the proposal.

Despite its proclaimed good intentions, we believe there are so many defects, some of them fundamental, in the proposals that they would, in fact, deliver the opposite of those intentions.

The following are some of those defects:

1. The defence of pre-implanted life cannot be separated from that of post-implanted life: they are inextricably linked.

2. The claimed non - subtractibility under Article 40.3.3  is open to question, being subject to contradictory government statements and opposing legal opinions.

3. The crucial distinction between "directness of action" and "unintended and indirect consequence" is being sidelined.

4. The extension of the travel and information rights would give a legal right to abortion, so long as it was carried out outside of Ireland.

5. The rolling back of the X case may not be effective, being done via an Act, not a Constitutional change.

6. This Government proposal is not, as claimed, the lesser of two evils.

Overall, there is too much reliance by proponents of this proposal on favourable interpretations by the Courts.  In our view, it is essential to take a realistic view of the challenges that are likely to be put forward, and of the likely direction of the outcome of those challenges.

It is apparent to us that very many (including many members of the Pro-Life Campaign) share our concerns as do both John Smeaton of SPUC [UK], and Dr John Willke of the International Right to Life Federation.

In our view the proposals present far more problems than they may appear to resolve.

The proper test of the proposals from a Catholic perspective is whether they would be effective for the purpose of defending life, not whether they reflect a consensus.

Analysis of some of the Issues

Protection of pre-implanted child embryos

1. Life begins at fertilization, not implantation, and the omission of any  level of protection for pre-implanted embryonic human beings is a fundamental defect in the proposal.

This omission was compounded by An Taoiseach and his Health Minister both of whom are on record as stating that this definition was chosen by the Government to ensure that use of the morning-after pill and IUDs would be lawful under the new proposals. (Speeches by An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and Mícheál Martin, Minister for Health, at the announcement of the referendum and the subsequent answers to the Fine Gael questions, ref. q.1).

2. The recent decision by the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) to redefine the morning after pill as a contraceptive rather than an abortifacient  appears to have been prompted by Health Minister Martin's remarks in his Oct. 2nd speech "these treatments are intended to prevent pregnancy and, as such do not come within the definition of abortion".

This action underlines the Government position, casts doubt on the independence of the Irish Medicines Board and further erodes the position of the pre implanted embryo thus rendering the amendment even more unacceptable.

(The statement of the IMB, as reported in The Irish Times on 14 November, is stated to be inaccurate, in that the IMB has not given its "approval" for the "morning-after pill", though it has "redefined" its effect.  There is currently no application before the IMB, but it is expected that once such application is made, the drug will be licensed.  It is believed that the "redefinition" of effect is based on opinions, rather than scientific evidence.

Comment: It would seem that the timing of licencing is being so arranged in order to avoid having the issue in the public eye while the debate on abortion is going on.)

3. The seriousness of the omission of specific protection for the pre-implanted embryo must also be considered in the context of "embryo research". The EU has recently voted to provide a budget of 17.5 billion Euro for research, 300m Euro of it for embryonic research.

The striking similarity of the current Government proposal to the US Government's Belmont report on Bio-ethics (1978) which contains many erroneous definitions, cannot be overlooked.

For example, "foetus"  in the Belmont report is defined as "the product of conception from the time of implantation" rather than fertilization.   "Pregnancy" is defined as "the period of time from confirmation of implantation....".

These definitions provided the necessary opening for the use of early human embryos for research purposes in the US and other countries. (See The Interim report by Jean Guilfoyle, June 2001, at http://www.lifesite.net/interim/2001/june/guilfoyle.html.  Also report from Dr Dianne Irving, 10 October 2001 on The Interim/lifesite website)

4. A statement from the Pontifical Academy for Life on the so-called "morning-after pill", dated 31 October 2001, includes the following:

"3. It is clear, therefore, that the proven "anti-implantation" action of the morning-after pill is really nothing other than a chemically induced abortion.  It is neither intellectually consistent nor scientifically justifiable to say that we are not dealing with the same thing".

"6.  In the end, since these procedures are becoming more widespread, we strongly urge everyone who works in this sector to make a firm objection of moral conscience, which will bear courageous and practical witness to the inalienable value of human life, especially in view of the new hidden forms of aggression against the weakest and most defenceless individuals, as is the case with a human embryo".

Government contradictions
1. Various opinions have been expressed that unborn life will remain protected before implantation under Article 40.3.3. of the Constitution, which, we are reminded, will still remain in force if the referendum is carried.  Both the Government and the Pro-Life Campaign (PLC), inform us that the new bill is "non-subtractive" of existing rights under Article 40.3.3. (PLC flier and Taoiseach¹s answers to Fine Gael Leader's Questions 1 and 3).

This is contradicted by the Government Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction explanatory document "Key Issues in Assisted Human Reproduction:" which tells us that this area "has not been adjudicated on",  These contradictory statements, taken with the determination of bio-ethicists to define pregnancy from the time of implantation, casts major doubt on the issue, to the extent that the measure cannot be supported.

2. As a nation we must demand that proper protection is put in place for the most vulnerable embryonic human beings and we must ensure that any and every door leading to the possibility of embryonic research or experimentation is firmly closed now.


1. Joe McCarroll in The Irish Family, 2 November, states:  "There is nothing in the wording of the new amendment which is subtractive of the recognition, respect and protection afforded to the unborn¹s humanity and right to life in Article 40.3.3."

International human rights lawyer Gregory Smith, in a recent opinion, flatly rejects this view. Smith concludes that, on the contrary, far from retaining its current level of protection, the position of the unborn will actually be weakened if this referendum is passed.

Smith argues that the current protection from fertilization or conception is provided by both Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, and Sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861, acting in tandem.

Mr. Justice Hamilton in the A.G. (SPUC) v Open Door Counselling and Dublin Well Woman Centre [1988], IR593 at 598, ruled that the combined effect of  Article 40.3.3 and the 1861 Act afforded protection to the unborn "from the date of its conception".

(It has been asserted that this statement by Mr Justice Hamilton has no legal standing (obiter dictum), and that there was incomplete knowledge of medical facts by the Justice.  Lawyer Smith has since examined the former part of this assertion, and has expressed his view, supported by detail, that "the statement of Hamilton L which I have previously quoted is not obiter dicta.")

Section 1(1) of the Bill, according to Smith, implies that the intentional destruction of unborn human life before implantation is not abortion and that, taken together with the repeal of the 1861 Act, there is no criminal offence remaining to protect the pre-implantation embryo from destruction by IUD, "morning-after" pills, RU-486 or destructive extraction of embryonic stem cells.

2. Smith also points out that, "there is an absurd exception in section 1(2) to the definition of abortion" and continues that "there may be numerous circumstances in which a doctor with a liberal attitude to abortion may be prepared to carry out a "procedure" which elsewhere would be described as an abortion."

The methods used we are told may include suction curettage for first trimester "procedures" or prostaglandins for second trimester "procedures". To not describe these as abortions according to Smith is a perversion of language.

Had the proposal been limited to unintentional "double effect" deaths, where the intent was to save mothers¹ lives there would, according to Smith, have been no need to play around with words.

Extension of Travel and Information rights

Section 4, subsection 2 of the Bill re-states the right to travel which was consequential on the 1992 Referendum.  The new proposal now goes further, by stating that:

"This Act does not operate to restrict any person from travelling to another state on the ground that his or her intended conduct there would, if it occurred in the State, constitute an offence under section 2 of this Act".

This would give a legal and constitutional seal of approval to the hypocrisy that abortion outside of Ireland is all right. Outside of any legal implications, or the fact that such endorsement would leave the pro-life position untenable, such an endorsement would be unthinkable in itself.

Abortion is wrong, no matter where it is carried out.

Effectiveness in rolling back the X case

The new Act, however constitutionally protected it may be by the Referendum, is still only an Act.  The Supreme Court may interpret the provision regarding suicide as being in conflict with the Constitution as they have interpreted it, and consider the new Act as ineffective.

Evangelium Vitae

Various proponents of the referendum quote paragraph 73 of the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae in favour of their position. If this paragraph is read with due attention, it is abundantly clear that it does not apply to the current proposal made by the Irish Government. The papal teaching speaks of the question of the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of abortions.

Here we have a totally contrary situation: a proposed law that will actually increase the number of abortions that can be performed legally in Ireland.


Pat Buckley, Chairman, NEART

..Referendum on Abortion