..back to home                                                         Updated: 13 Feb 2003
            ..back to "Off the Record!"

Referendum on Abortion

While we endeavour to facilitate access to information on both sides, we recommend a NO vote.
We point out that, contrary to the image presented by RTE and some of the print media, pro-life does not equal Yes, and pro-abortion/"choice" does not equal No.  There are bed-fellows on both sides with quite opposing objectives.

              (Link to opinion R Greene, 1 March 1999)
  • Dail & Seanad Debates, Winter 2001 (links)

  • Irish Medical Association:
    • How they came to change their minds (u/c)
    • Membership of Board (u/c)
  • Irish Medicines Board:
  • Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction:

  • Hearings on Abortion,  May and July, 2000 (All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution).  Links to Gov't site for individual speakers.

  • Gov't Green Paper, Sept 1999.

  • Link to Gov't site.  Much useful info, even if some bias on occasion.
  • The X case
  • The Constitution (including Article 40.3.3)



(Ed note: Emphasis added)

Status of the Human Embryo

According to reports, Mr John Rogers, SC, is quoted as suggesting that he did not believe that the human embryo, prior to implantation, was entitled to rights, and that the Supreme Court would hold that the public did not know the difference  when they were voting in 1983 (for the amendment to the Constitution for the protection of life).

This view was immediately contradicted by Professor William Binchy, and by a voting member of the audience.

It was also contradicted by Reverend Dr Brendan  Purcell, of UCD, in that the Irish version of the Constitution (which  took precedence as the "first official language") gave "unborn" as "beo gan breith".  (The latter point was contributed by Richard Greene (Articles 8.1 and 25.5.4)).

Furthermore, it is twice stated in the Commission's "Synopsis of Presentations" for the meeting on 6 February, that concerns about "test-tube" babies began in 1978, when Louise Brown was born.  This was some 5 years before the 1983 referendum, and, it is submitted, was a concern very much on the minds of voters in 1983.

13 Feb 2003

Conference on
Assisted Reproduction Conference

1  The above Conference took place on Thursday,  6 February at Dublin Castle.

2  The Commission was established by the Minister of Health & Children, Mr Micheál Martin TD, and the stated purpose of this public Conference is to "explore some of the social, ethical and legal factors involved".

3.  The Conference is to be chaired by Mr John Bowman, of RTÉ.  It will be attended by Baroness Warnock (a "Moral Philosopher"), Ms Suzi Leather of the British Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, and various other experts.

In fact, as noted by the Irish Catholic, 12 December, almost all of the people at the top tables are employed in the industry, or support it.

4.  Persons who are unable to conceive suffer greatly, and research aimed at reducing sterility is to be encouraged, as long as that is placed at the service of the human person, and respects the rights of all concerned.  In this respect there are natural methods - such as NAPRO - which are ethically acceptable.

5.  However,  it is not the case that IVF respects life.   According to  Pro-life News, October 2002, published by SPUC UK,  the success rate of IVF in Britain is only 4%, and it is estimated that some 1.2m babies have been frozen or have died there in the process over the last 10 years.

6.  The (Irish) Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction has commented that "If it [ie the human embryo] were held to enjoy such protection [ie under the Constitution], this would have serious implications for current practice."  One can only speculate as to what is meant by "serious implications" and "current practice".

The object of the Irish body is to put it on the same footing as the British body, so that its practitioners can compete for the European market. None of  the members - Irish or British - is elected.

Both  are dependent on abortion.  This is the taking of human life, which cannot be acceptable in a civilized society, nor is it allowed by the Irish Constitution.

The foreign "experts" are only here to promote, in the most refined way, the taking of human life,  and  should be shown the door.

13 February 2003

Did the Irish Bishops get it right?
Can a Catholic Support a Law That Allows Some Abortions?

Interview with Ángel Rodríguez Luño, Professor of Moral Theology

ROME, OCT. 3, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Is it morally justifiable to vote for or
promote a law that accepts abortion with restrictions, as an alternative to a more-permissive law already in force or about to be voted on?

This question has profoundly concerned Christian and non-Christian politicians
and lawmakers over the last decades.

Ángel Rodríguez Luño, professor of moral theology at the Pontifical
University of the Holy Cross in Rome, responded to this question in an article
in the Sept. 6 Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano. He asked theologians
to help people to understand the fundamental question.

Here, he took up the topic with ZENIT.

Q.1: Voting for a law that accepts abortion partially, even if it improves the
situation, has been criticized by some pro-lifers. They believe that abortion is
so evil that no exception to its rejection is possible. How do you reply to this

Rodríguez Luño: What I think and what I have written, is completely in
agreement with what is affirmed in this question. A law that legalizes abortion,
even if it is for fewer cases than another, is a gravely unjust law, for which no
Catholic can vote in favor, and in whose application there can be no formal
cooperation and no type of immediate material cooperation.

What No 73 of the encyclical "Evangelium Vitae" says is something very
different, namely: If a member of a legislative assembly who is totally opposed
to abortion cannot completely abrogate a gravely unjust law, but can abrogate
it partially, he can and in general must do so, so long as it does not cause
scandal, and he does not make himself responsible for unjust legislative
dispositions remaining in force, which he does not succeed in abrogating.

An example will clarify it. Let us think of the legislative assembly of a country,
in which a very permissive law of abortion is in force. That assembly has 100
parliamentarians, divided in three groups.

Group A, with 40 members, accepts the current law and does not want to
change it for any reason at all.

Group B, with 30 members, thinks that abortion should be legal in some cases,
but regards the current law as too permissive and in need of modification;
however, B is not willing to approve a law that prohibits any type of abortion.

Group C, with 30 members, is opposed to any type of abortion. If in such a
situation, a few parliamentarians of group C, who are Catholics, present a
motion to the assembly that abrogates all the articles of the law in force to date
that those of group B are willing to eliminate, in such a way that if it is
approved abortion in many cases will be illegal, which up until now were legal,
although it will continue to be legal in very restricted cases, the
parliamentarians of group C -- who are Catholics -- have before them three
possible ways to act: to vote against the motion, to abstain, or to vote in favor.

If they vote against the motion, they are responsible for the very permissive
law continuing in force, and this is not acceptable for Catholic morality.

If they abstain, the motion for abrogation does not get a majority and is not
approved and, consequently, they become responsible in some way for the
very permissive law continuing in force, which is not morally acceptable

If they vote in favor of the motion, the latter gets the necessary majority vote,
the previous law remains partially abrogated, and the resulting new law is far
more strict.

What I have written on the basis of what "Evangelium Vitae," No. 73, has said is that parliamentarians who have presented the motion for abrogation have
acted well, and are morally correct, and that Catholics of group C may, and
generally must, vote in favor of the motion for abrogation, so long as their
position of complete opposition to any form of abortion remains clear.

And, the foundation of the moral judgment contained in No. 73 of the
encyclical is not that the more restrictive law is acceptable to Catholic
morality. This is not the case. It is about a gravely unjust law, with which it is
not possible to collaborate in any way.

The foundation of the moral judgment of "Evangelium Vitae" is that the moral
object of the action of the parliamentarians who have presented the motion for
abrogation, and that of the action of the totality of group C, is not to uphold
the articles that remain in force and which they do not have the possibility of
abrogating. Rather, the moral object of their action -- "what they really do" --
is only to abrogate the articles of the previous law that it is possible to
abrogate, and to avoid upholding with their vote the previous, more permissive
law. This is not collaboration with a pro-abortion law -- it is not "cooperation
in doing evil" -- but the exercise of the duty to abrogate, to the degree possible,
a gravely unjust law.

To say it even more graphically: The parliamentary majority that supports the
articles of the previous law that are still in force, after the approval of the
motion for abrogation, is made up of group A and group B, that is, 40 plus 30.
The parliamentary majority that has abrogated the most permissive articles is
made up of group B and group C -- that is, 30 plus 30. Group C, which
includes the Catholic parliamentarians, is only responsible for the abrogation of
some articles, namely, of having eliminated everything that they could
eliminate, and that what they could not eliminate did not continue in force.

This is the first case of the three contemplated in my article. The other two are
different, but the moral principle according to which they are resolved is the
same. The moral reasoning I have proposed must be read with great care,
because it is a difficult and delicate question.

Q.2: How can we avoid the danger of a growing laxity with the passing of time if
we accept the possibility of approving imperfect laws?

Rodríguez Luño: I have never used the expression, which I consider unclear,
of imperfect laws in my article. "Evangelium Vitae" does not use that
expression either.

Almost all the authors who used it put it in quotation marks, to indicate that it
is simply an abbreviated and easy way to refer to a complex problem that
everyone knows. In my article it only appears when I quote two publications
on the topic. In one, it is in quotation marks, but not in the other. But the
reading of that article quoted by me in a note confirms what I say.

Going to the essence of the question, I clarify that the laws that some call
imperfect are, as results from my response to the first question, simply unjust,
more or less unjust, but unjust nevertheless. They are not morally acceptable
under any condition.

What I have proposed is an ensemble of criteria to keep the tension alive and
really effective, not only not to grow accustomed to evil, but to go on
eliminating it to the degree that it becomes possible to do so, with the idea, of
course, of eliminating it completely.

However, it cannot always be eliminated at once. It is worthwhile to take
progressive steps, so long as it can be done without becoming, in fact,
responsible for gravely unjust laws or actions.

Q.3: Who is responsible for judging if a specific law satisfies the conditions
expressed by the Pope in his encyclical?

Rodríguez Luño: What one tries to judge is not a law, but the real meaning --
the moral object -- of the action of voting in some concrete circumstances. I
don't think that that judgment belongs to any one in particular.

What one tries to do is to have the certainty that that action, in those
circumstances, is really an act of partial abrogation, and that the voter does not
make himself really responsible for what has not been abrogated.

If a politician cannot come to that certainty, and has doubts, he can ask the
advice of sufficiently prepared persons to direct him with truth.

This does not impede the bishop of the diocese or the episcopal conference
from considering that in a concrete case it is appropriate that they themselves
be the ones who give that judgment, for the peace of conscience of all and to
avoid confusion; in this case, that judgment of the legitimate ecclesiastical
authority is binding on the conscience of a Catholic. However, in itself, I don't
think it is a question of authority or permission but of truth and certainty that
that truth has been reached.

Q.4: Can we apply what "Evangelium Vitae" says to other fields, such as genetic research?

Rodríguez Luño: In principle I see nothing wrong in applying it to other fields,
so long as it is well understood and that the moral principle mentioned earlier is
faithfully applied.

If an unjust law cannot be totally abrogated, it is generally right to proceed to
its partial abrogation, so long as it can be done without giving scandal (which
requires making one's way of acting comprehensible) and without making
oneself really responsible for something unjust.

Q.5: What advice can you give politicians who must work in a secular state
where many do not accept the validity of Christian moral principles?

Rodríguez Luño: The question is too broad to be able to give a complete
answer. In my judgment, what is important is to be thoroughly consistent with
one's own Christian identity.

There are channels in democratic states for citizens to participate in the
election of political leaders and in the formation of sociopolitical guidelines and
of public opinion. Politicians and citizens who are Catholics must use these
channels -- which are equally available to all other citizens -- to order social
and political life according to criteria that, in keeping with their well-formed
Christian conscience, contribute more and better to the common good of the
country in which they live.

In my opinion, what must be avoided is to let oneself be frightened by slogans
that do not hold up to rational examination, or to live with a perpetual breaking
down of conscience, a sort of mental schizophrenia, according to which what
they regard as good and necessary for the common good is one thing, and
what they consider good and necessary for the common good in its public
conduct is another quite different and even contrary.

If other citizens are not in agreement with the criteria of a Christian
conscience, Catholics should express their own reasons rigorously, and engage
in the same civil battle -- using licit and legal means -- for their criteria, that
others engage in for theirs.

This does not mean that all Catholics have, in fact, or should have the same
political ideas. On many political problems, various different solutions are
compatible with the Christian conscience, and each Catholic will support what
he thinks best. When I speak of consistency, I am referring to consistency
with what the Christian conscience necessarily exacts or prohibits.

From Zenit email newsletter, 5 October 2002.

See also report Sunday Tribune, 22 December 2002, report by Shane Coleman.

Also L'Osservatore Romano,  in Italian, 6 September 2002.

    23 December 2002

"Who are the unborn?"  
Article by Dr Mícheál Ó Searcóid,
published in Brandsma Review Jan -Feb 2002
Link to www.abortionreferendum2002.com/ 12 April 2002

Votes in favour                        618,485    49.58%
Votes against                            629,041    50.42%

Majority of votes against         10,556    00.85%

Invalid ballot papers:                             6,649      00.53%

Turnout                                                                  43%

(Source: Press Release issued by P Greene, Referendum Returning Officer, Custom House, Dublin 1, Phone 888 2484 7 March 2002)

(Note: Detailed figures on Press Release.  But this Press Release not found on Dept of Environment website on 8 March. Try later at:  http://www.environ.ie/pressindex.html), or the national daily newspapers for 8 March 2002.


8 March 2002


In a scathing condemnation of the Government's proposals on abortion, former judge of the High Court, Roderick J O'Hanlon, has stated that the measure, which he describes as "intrinsically evil", would "greatly worsen the legal protection afforded unborn human beings" in this country.

Mr O'Hanlon's condemnation is contained in a formal legal opinion delivered to Rome.

Subjecting the right to life to a vote

Mr O'Hanlon's first criticism of the "Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy Bill" is that it "does violence to the referendum procedure internal in our Constitution" by introducing a complicated procedure which is "contrived and redundant".   The evil of this improper procedure is aggravated because it is "questionable that this utmost right of life ingrained in the natural law be repeatedly subject to a vote", he says.

He maintains that "the proper traditional concept of the natural law, still widely respected, if not revered, throughout Ireland, holds that the right to life is not subject to derogation by the State because individual human life is a constituent human element of society and thus antecedent to the State itself".

Repeal of ss.58 & 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861

Arising from the foregoing, he says that the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the unborn child's rights.

He expresses concern at the "extraordinary effort" to repeal sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861, (OAPA) which gives effect to those sanctions, notwithstanding the so-called "X-case", which, he says, has limited application, and is "subject to reversal by a properly constituted Irish Supreme Court".

Because of the common application throughout the British Commonwealth of this Act, the repeal here of ss 58 and 59 of the OAPA, 1861, would have "a far-reaching secondary political impact" in many other English-speaking countries.

The derogatory nature of the Bill

The Bill derogates the current legal protections afforded the unborn in Ireland, because it "unquestionably" eliminates penal sanctions for unborn human embryos until implanted in the womb, provides no sanction for embryos artificially conceived outside the human mother, and arbitrarily and imprecisely excludes a greatly enlarged number of post-implantation abortions from the definition of abortion, he says.

Mr O'Hanlon takes the view that the phrase "In particular", being preceded by a phrase beginning "Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions ..", would completely pre-empt and vitiate all current provisions of the Irish Constitution enacted prior to it.

" necessary to prevent  a real and substantial risk "

This phrase he considers to be fraught with ambiguity and imprecision inviting further liberalization beyond that allowable in the "X-case".   He says its application would be nearly impossible to control or sanction, especially because of the breadth and range of allowable medical practitioner opinions which it apparently embraces.

In illustration of this, Mr O'Hanlon  quotes from the Taoiseach's own reply to Question 19, from Deputy Michael Noonan, which had asked about the effects of the proposal in relation to the range of medical conditions identified as problem issues during the All-Party Oireachtas Hearings on Abortion.   The Taoiseach's reply was to the effect that the procedures described in the proposed legislation "fully cover all the medical conditions raised by medical practitioners of whatever opinion" in the context of their submissions:  the Government was not willing to "close this category" or to specify the individual conditions.

Mr O'Hanlon felt that this reply of the Taoiseach was particularly chilling when one reads of the actual submissions by medical practitioners to the All-Party Committee, describing the medical conditions which would justify the "procedures" described in section 1 (2) of the Bill.

Mr O'Hanlon points out that the Report of the Hearings show that:

1. Medical practitioners generally acknowledge that the "X-case" did not change the practice in Ireland, that

2. The intentional taking of the life of the unborn does not currently occur in Ireland, but that

3. A whole range of "medical conditions" not currently considered could be problem issues justifying such intentional taking of the life of the unborn.


For all of the foregoing reasons, Mr O'Hanlon says, it is his "carefully considered legal opinion" that this Bill constitutes "a morally grave measure which, if enacted, would inevitably increase both the occurrence of actual abortions by substantial numbers in Ireland and the number of abortions not subject to penal law prohibition".

The measure, he says, is clearly intrinsically evil and would greatly worsen the legal protection afforded unborn humanbeings subject to Irish jurisdiction.


Note 1:  See "The Irish Family", 22 February 2002 for full text of opinion.

Note 2:  The foregoing summary of Mr O'Hanlon's opinion was faxed to all Irish national daily papers (5), most national Sunday papers (6), a selection of provincial papers (18), and Catholic papers (5) on 22/24/25 Febraury.
 As far as we are aware, it was not published in any paper, with the exception of "The Irish Family" where the opinion was printed in full.

Note 2:  Mr Rory OHanlon died after a short illness on 24 March 2002.

Issued by:
Pat Buckley, Chairman, NEART,  Glenrue, Ballinclea Rd, Killiney, Co Dublin
to whom all queries should be addressed.           Phone 2048281


26 February 2002
Updated: 25 March 2002

A Trojan horse

1. It is hard to understand how the Irish Bishops came to lend their support to the proposed referendum.

2. The proposal does indeed aim to deal with the most prominent danger, ie, threatened suicide as a ground for abortion.

3. The price, however, is the acceptance of benign interpretations relating to less visible but no less real dangers, ie:

   1. Any other "medical" grounds for abortion     certified by one doctor.

        2. Early abortions (the "morning after pill" and            destructive child embryo usage).

There is more than ample evidence to suggest that the acceptance of benign interpretations is just not warranted.  In the former case, the stage is being set for a Bourne-type judgement, while in the latter case, the Taoiseach has made it clear that the " .. 'morning after pill'  will be lawful under these proposals."

4. The net outcome is a rolling back of the "X" case judgement in one respect, and the rolling forward of the "X" case in a number of other respects, the balance being overwhelmingly to the detriment of the unborn child.  In our view, the Bishops are thus mistaken in seeking to rely on the part of  Article 73 of Evangelium Vitae they quote, and mistaken in the advice they have given their flock.

5. In our view, the foregoing is sufficient reason for rejecting the proposals.  But there is, in addition, an over-riding consideration.

Section 4 (2) of the Bill effectively gives a right to travel for a purpose that would, "if it occurred in the State, constitute an offence" under the Act, ie, an abortion.  This takes the 1992 travel amendment a stage further.

To declare in our Constitution, as we are enjoined by the Bishops to do, 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, but with location.  This is not acceptable under any circumstances.

Abortion is the taking of a human life, regardless of where it occurs.  It is surely an abuse of Catholic teaching to suggest that support could exist for a "right" to abortion, however indirect.

6. The Irish Bishops have in the past taken a valiant stand on many occasions on family and life issues.   It is a matter for regret then that, on this occasion, they have acted outside their sphere of competence and made a judgement that is political rather than moral.


25 February 2002

RTÉ, pluralism and censorship

In the course of three programmes1 since early January on the Abortion Referendum, RTE has given an interesting insight into how it handles pluralism.

On each occasion, RTE allocated equal time to the "yes" side and to the "no" side, represented broadly by the Pro-life Campaign and the Alliance for a No vote.  The programmes might then be said to be "reasonably balanced".

However, allowing equal expression to the two sides of an argument is only part of the story.  There must be internal balance also, ie, permitting expression to the main elements, at least, within each side.  Otherwise, particularly in a monopoly situation, a broadcaster would still be able to influence the direction of the national debate by selecting voices least damaging to a favoured cause.  There is European case law which supports the concept of internal balance.

This is particularly relevant in the current circumstances.  The Pro-life Campaign (PLC) does not represent all views on the pro-life side.  There is, in fact, a body of pro-life opinion, which is believed to be substantial, which is opposed to the PLC-endorsed proposals.

Yet there was no one on any occasion to speak for this viewpoint, except their opponents!  The essence of freedom of expression is the right to express one's own views oneself, (as well as expressing views that are opposed to those in power).

RTE is under a legal obligation to be fair and impartial.  It does not have a right to exclude views which may be inconvenient either to RTE, or to parties they are more accustomed to dealing with.

To do so is censorship, whatever the reason.

The Referendum on Abortion has been under discusison since October last, and more particularly since early January last.  The first serious attempt that we are aware of to inform the public of the existence and substance of the pro-life No position was only made on Prime Time on 21 February, two weeks before the referendum, and only one week in campaigning terms.

By that time, RTE had set the terms of the debate, ie, Pro-life=Yes, Pro-abortion=No.   Anyone now entering the debate does so as an intruder and as one confusing the position.

Moreover, the sub-text is FF/PD Coalition=Yes, Labour/FG=No, ie, a dry run for the election, though RTE would be entitled to disclaim responsibility for that part.

All this leaves anyone trying to analyse the proposals for the killing of unborn human life from a pro-life perspective further out in the cold.  In fact, despite the verbiage used, the abortion issue itself is at times an irrelevant side-show next to the election warm-up.

There are two results from this:

1.  A leg-up for the opposition parties, prior to the election.

2.  A leg-up for the pro-"choice" side, facilitating a claim for credit for all the 'No' votes, as had been attempted after the 1992 Referendum, in turn enabling the presentation of all such votes as a demand for the legalisation of abortion.

RTE's actions are distorting the debate, with consequences for the decision the public is about to make, and are a gross interference with the democratic process.

This is a most serious matter.

If the print media are aware of all this, we haven't heard too much about it2.

More anon.


1. The three programmes referred to are:
7 January 2002 Questions & Answers
15 January  Prime Time
3 February  Hands On

2. Save for a reader's letter  in The Irish Times (substantially), The Irish Catholic, The Sunday Tribune, and in The Irish Examiner (partially).


25 February 2002

Suicide and abortion

Extract from Evidence to
Select Committee on Health and Children by
Mr Michael Martin, Minister for Health and Children
29 November 2001
(from Government website)(emphasis added)

 Mr Martin: I just want to give my perspective on the issue.
 Professor John Bonner, Chairman of the Institute of Obstetricians
 and Gynaecologists said:

      ... prior to the Abortion Act in the UK risks of suicide
      were the indications for abortion and there used to be
      large numbers of patients having terminations on
      psychiatric grounds linked to risks of suicide and they
      all sort of suddenly disappeared when the Abortion Act
      came in. The problem in relation to the risks of suicide
      or the psychiatric indications is that these are clearly
      different to the physical problems that we've been
      discussing like pre-eclampsia, ectopic pregnancy,
      cancer of the cervix. These are entirely different. In
      practice it appears that the psychiatric indications
      become exceedingly elastic, legislation to control them
      has been usually unsuccessful and they have been
      used to achieve abortion.

 In the United Kingdom in 1994, the commission of inquiry into the
 operation and consequences of the Abortion Act chaired by Lord
 Rawlinson of Ewell, published a report entitled "The Physical and
 Psycho-Social Effects of Abortion on Women". This commission
 heard evidence from representatives of the Royal College of
 Psychiatrists who had a particular on view this. They stated that
 although most abortions are carried out on the grounds of danger
 to the mother's mental health, it was their expert opinion that there
 is in fact no psychiatric justification for abortion. That is just one
 perspective. In light of this the commission believed that to perform
 abortion on these grounds was not just questionable in terms of
 compliance with the law in the United Kingdom but it also put
 women at risk of suffering a psychiatric disturbance after abortion
 without alleviating any psychiatric problems that already exist.

End of extract

5 February 2002

See also later Clare/Casey statement

25 February 2002

New pro-life group launched

A new pro-life group "Ireland For Life" was launched on Monday 7 January in Galway.

The spokesperson for the group, Mrs Mary Thornton, former founder member and chairwoman of Galway for Life, said that many people throughout the country have serious concerns about the Amendment wording and that their voice is not being heard.

Email is IrelandForLife1@aol.com

More on The Irish Family, 11 January 2002


12 January 2002

The UK Abortion Act, 1967

The UK Abortion Act, 1967, was introduced as a Bill in 1966 by David Steel, MP.

Pro-abortion campaigners knew that abortion on demand would not be acceptable or even that any substantial liberalisation of the law would be likely to pass.

Steel's Bill was therefore presented as a mininalist measure, to clarify the law, and permit abortions in "hard" cases.  The much-quoted slogan was that "it was not the intention  ... to leave a wide open door for abortion on request".  The grounds for abortion included "[r]isk of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman greater than ...", as well as risk to the life of the pregnant woman.

The debate took place against the background of babies born with disabilities caused by thalimomide.

It should be noted that the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861, (or the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929) were not repealed or replaced.

Abortion is still illegal in England: it is merely "permitted", under the certification of two doctors.

In England and Wales, the figures grew as follows:

First year of partial operation of the Act, 1968, 21,000 abortions, (excluding non-residents)

First year of full operation, 1969, 50,000 abortions.

In 1991, the figure stood at 165,000 in 1991,
(three and a half times the 1969 figure, and probably ten times the pre-Act figures, then taking place both within the law (for suicide), illegally, and in countries such as Sweden).

In the 30 years since the Act some 3 million abortions had taken place in Britain.

In the light of the original assurance, was David Steel dismayed when presented with these figures in 1997?  Surprisingly, not at all!

UK Abortion Act, 1967


29 January 2002

A Real Threat
                          Opinion, from Roderick J O'Hanlon:
A statement has recently received wide publicity emanating from the group entitled the           Pro-Life Movement and encouraging people to       support the Government referendum on the abortion issue.
                      The group in question - headed, I believe, by a
                      prominent senator of the Fianna Fáil party - does
                      not, in my opinion, speak for the pro-life movement
                      all over Ireland. How many members are there in
                      the group calling itself "The Pro-Life Movement"
                      and how many of them supported the public
                      statement which was recently issued by the group?

                      I have been at a most impressive mass meeting
                      organised in Dublin under the auspices of Youth
                      Defence at which everyone who spoke was firmly
                      opposed to the Government proposals. I believe this
                      attitude will be reflected throughout the length and
                      breadth of Ireland when people reflect on the
                      calculated decision to exclude the unborn child
                      during the first days after conception from the
                      protection against abortion offered by the Bill.

                      Why was the Bill sprung upon the public without
                      any previous debate or discussion as to what
                      provisions the Bill should contain? Why are the
            provisions of the Constitution as to the procedure
                      for amendment not being followed in relation to this

                      What is important is that those associated with the
                      pro-life movement all over Ireland should not be
                      deceived into thinking that the issue has been
                      decided for them by a group of wise men in Dublin
                      and should vote in the knowledge that the proposed
            amendment presents a real threat to the
                      constitutional protection already afforded by the
                      Constitution to the unborn child.

                      RODERICK J. O'HANLON, Kilternan, Co

(Published The Irish Times  31 December 2001)

If Abortion comes,
can Euthanasia be far behind?

In the UK

In the UK, the slide towards legal euthanasia gathers pace.

In July, the UK General Medical Council (GMC) issued a draft document called Withholding and withdrawing life-Prolonging Treatment, which critics describe as "euthanasia by omission".

There appears to be unanimity between the GMC, the British Government, the British Medical Association (BMA), and President of the Family Division of the High Court, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss.

Dame Elizabeth has pointed to figures of up to 2,000 patients who were mentally-incapacitated in the UK.

"Hospitals may also need to consider the issue of resources, however distasteful that may seem."    She added that hospitals should consider whether resources should continue to be directed to patients who have no hope of receiving any benefit from that treatment.

Last year, Dame Elizabeth ruled, in a test case under the UK Human Rights Act, that the practice of withdrawing food and fluids to kill patients who where not dying was consistent with the right to life provision contained in the new law.

A group of politicians holds a different view and are themselves taking a test case to the European Court of Human Rights! (Catholic Herald, 3 August 2001) At home

In Ireland, 12-year-olds are being "readied" for the debate that, apparently, and without the knowledge of the general public, lies ahead.  So that they can "make up their own minds" about the retention or otherwise of the elderly, the arguments for and against are laid out in a balanced manner.

Thus, at page 52 of Magic Emerald Activity Book D, Sixth Class,  we have:

"They're a part of your family",
"They are not old-fashioned,, it's just their views",
"If you destroy them you destroy a generation - your creators"

is balanced, respectively, by:


All good fun, and no doubt most children will come to the right conclusion, if that is allowable.

Magic Emerald Activity Book A (or C), Third Class, page 10, has the following entertaining piece:

"The old hag opened her small wrinkled mouth, showing disgusting pale brown teeth.  "here we Go!" George cried out.  "Swallow it down!"  He pushed the spoon well into her mouth and tiped the (poisonous) mixture  down her throat.  Then he stepped back to watch the result.   It was worth watching."

In response to a query, the Department of Education said it was up to individual schools, and not the Minister to decide what books are used in class.

In an editorial, however, the monthly newpaper Alive said that parents are entitled to be told, explicitly, all the aims of the school curriculum, and what values it promotes.  They have a right to know the part played by institutions like the EU and UN, in shaping the curriculum.

Magic Emerald activity books are published by Folens, and are available country-wide at £4.99 each.  The matter was drawn to attention by the National Union of Mothers of Ireland (NUMI), Secretary, Theresa Heaney, 023 46470.  Reported in The Star 16 November 2001, and Alive December 2001.


26 November 2001

"Minimisation" of opposition

According to the Sunday Times (11 November, 2001), one of the topics discussed at a Leinster House meeting between Fianna Fáil TDs and members of the Pro-Life Campaign was "whether the pro-life campaigners could 'minimise' opposition from anti-abortion groups".

What can this mean?  Not censorship, we hope.

But we are left wondering why the significant remarks of the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo ("we expect that the (Irish) bishops will react against this project") received only minimal attention in some quarters.


12 January 2002

Dáil & Seanad Debates, Winter 2001 (links)
Seanad Dáil:

22 November 2001, additions 22 January 2002


Date: 21 January 2002
News release received from Ireland for Life: (emphasis added)

"Ireland for Life has today challenged the Irish Medicines Board to reclassify morning-after pills as abortifacients - because they act after conception.

"In a letter to the chairperson of the Irish Medicines Board, Ireland for Lifeâ€s solicitors state that article 40.3.3 of the constitution protects human life from conception. The letter also cites sections of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, which prohibit the procuring of a miscarriage. Ireland For Life also emphasise that the 1861 act is reinforced by the 1979 Health (Family Planning) Act.

"The Irish Medicines Board classified the Levonelle morning-after pill as a contraceptive in October last year. â€Although Levonelle can work as a contraceptive, it can also affect the lining of the womb so that the young embryo cannot implant. It is thus abortifacientâ€, said Mrs Thornton, spokesperson of Ireland For Life.

"Mrs Thornton added,  â€If  Ireland for Life does not receive an assurance from the Irish Medicines Board in the next three days that it will reclassify Levonelle as an
abortifacient, Ireland For Life organisation will apply for a judicial reviewâ€.

"Ireland for Life is also opposing the governments proposed amendment to the constitution, which would redefine abortion as taking place after implantation rather than fertilisation.

"Referring to todayâ€s letter to the Irish Medicines Board, spokesperson Mrs Mary Thornton, said: †I believe
that this could be the last time that such an action can be brought. Furthermore, if the forthcoming abortion
referendum is passed, there will be no law vindicating the right to life of the pre-implantation embryoâ€".

Mary Thornton - IRELAND FOR LIFE  091 582 258


                22 January 2002

Irish Medicines Board:
How they came to change their minds


From News Release of NEART, 10 December, 2001:

"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."


"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."

More later.

            Extract from speech
of the Minister for  Health and Children, Mr Micheál Martin, T.D., on the publication of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment of the                  Constitution Bill, 2 October 2001: (Emphasis added)
"I would like to refer to another issue to which the All-Party Oireachtas Committee highlighted in its    report. Concern was expressed that legislation on     abortion might have implications for the use of the   "morning after pill".
The Committee felt that any legal uncertainties that might exist in regard to the "morning after pill" (post-coital or emergency contraception) should be removed.

"These treatments are intended to prevent pregnancy and, as such, do not come within the definition of     abortion as set out in the Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy Bill.

This legislation will therefore remove any doubts about the legality of emergency contraception in the form of the "morning after pill" and the post-coital IUD.

The question of licensing any particular medicinal product will remain a matter for the Irish Medicines Board, the independent agency with responsibility in this area."

End of extract.

22 January 2002

"Assisted Human Reproduction"

A right to know, and a right to intervene


The public's right to know

Substantial EU funds are becoming available for AHR-related "research".   The total budget for all research over three years is 17.5 billion euros, of which 300m euros will be for research on "surplus" child embryos.  It would be surprising  if there were not pressures for changes in the law from vested interests in this country in order to avail of
some of this funding.

It is suggested the public is entitled to be fully and clearly informed as to what is driving this project and where it is leading.

It is suggested also that so informing the public is the particular responsibility of the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction.

The public's right to intervene

Andre Menache, president of Doctors and Lawyers for Responsible Medicine, has suggested that, as science nudges up against the verylimits of what is ethically and morally acceptable, broad public approval is now becoming necessary.  It is our society as a whole, he says, which should accept or reject, speed up or slow down any novel
medical technical technology, so as to assess potential benefit and risk.   Until this occurs, we will in all likelihood continue to serve as unwilling and inadequately informed human guinea pigs, he says. (Irish Times, 8 Sep 2000).

Aldous Huxley, in Brave New World Revisited, (p.38) ponders the same question in relation to the wider issue of social engineering.   Like Sir Galahad's, he says, their (the experts) strength is as the strength of ten because "they are scientists and have taken six thousand hours of social studies".

To the misgivings on ethical and psychological grounds must be added, he says, misgivings of a purely scientific character, ie, how do we know the (social) engineers have the right answer?

We might also ask in relation to our own situation: how valid can regulation be when it is performed by persons associated with the industry itself, regardless of their good faith, which we have no reason to impugn?

I note that of the 21 members of the Commission appointed by the Government, all seem to be connected with the industry, no fewer than 19 are technical or legal experts, and not one seems to clearly represent the public interest.

So, what is that telling us of the Government's intentions?


24 November 2001

Text of Bill Twenty-fifth amendment of the Constitution
(Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill, 2001

Text of Bill(as passed by Dáil Éireann, 5 Dec 2001)(link to Gov't website, pdf)
Text of Bill(as initiated) (link to Gov't website, pdf)
Explanatory memo (link)
Speech of Micheál Martin, TD, Minister for Health and Children on introducing Bill, 2 October 2001 (link)

Selected extracts from Bill:
as passed by Dáil Éireann, 5 December 2001:
[No. 48b of 2001]  ISBN 0-7557-2323-6

(Key elements only, emphasis added)

1. - Article 46 of the Constitution is hereby amended as follows:

(a) the section the text of which is set out in Cuid 1 - Part 1 of An Chéad Sceideal - The First Schedule to this Act shall be inserted after section 5 of hte Irish text,

(b) the section the text of which is set out in Cuid 2 - Part 2 of An Chéad Sceideal - The First Schedule  to this Act shall be inserted after section 5 of the English text.

Cuid 2 - Part 2

1.   Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this Article, Article 40 of this Constitution shall be amended as follows:

The following subsections shall be added to section 3 of the English text:
  "4.  In particular, the life of the unborn in the womb shall be protected in accordance with the provisions of theProtection of Human Life in Pregnancy Act, 2002.

5.   (Not quoted here)

2.  (Not quoted here)

3.  If such a law is not so enacted within 180 days of this section being added to this Constitution, this section shall cease to have effect and shall be omitted from every official text of this Constitution published thereafter.

4.  (Not quoted here)




1. -  (1)  In this Act, "abortion" means the intentional destruction by any means of unborn human life after implantation in the womb of a woman.

   (2)  Notwithstanding subsection (1) of this section,

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.

(Ed: Above section broken up to aid clarity)

(3) In this section - "approved place" means a place in the State approved for the time being by order as being suitable for the purposes of this section;

"medical practitioner" means a person permitted by law for the time being to practise as a registered medical practitioner in the State;

"reasonable opinion" means a reasonable opinion formed in good faith which has regard to the need to preserve unborn human life where practicable and of which a written record has been made and signed by the practitioner;

"woman" means a female person."

2. -  (1) No person shall carry out or effect an abortion in the State.

    (2)  For the purposes of this section, a person shall be presumed to have intended the natural and probable consequences of his or her conduct; but this presumption may be rebutted.

    (3)  A person who contravenes [will be guilty of an offence and will be liable on conviction to] a term not exceeding 12 years or a fine or both.

    (4)  A prosecution for an offence under this section may be brought only by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

3. Nothing in this Act shall be construed as obliging any person to carry out any medical procedure referred to in section 1 of this Act.

4. - (1)  This Act does not limit freedom to travel between the State and another state

or freedom to obtain or make available in the State, in accordance with conditions for the time being laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state.

(Ed: Above section broken up to aid clarity)

    (2)  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.

5.  (Re orders: not quoted here)

6.  - Sections 58 and 59 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861, are hereby repealed.

7. - (Short title and commencement:  not quoted here)


End of selected extracts from Bill

See also authentic full text of Bill(as initiated only)

Note: There were some minor amendments to the Bill, mainly relating to "medical practitioner" (s.1(3)), and to the making of orders (s.5).

re-issued 4 February 2002

The X case

Extract from Government Green Paper on Abortion, September 1999, (emphasis added) (para 2.15, p.29):

"A majority of the members of the Supreme Court held that,

if it were established, as a matter of probability, that there was a real and substantial risk to the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother and

that this real and substantial risk could only be averted by the termination of her pregnancy, such a termination was lawful."

" ...threat of suicide constituted a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother."



The above extract replaces previously quoted extract on this site from page 5 of the Government's Green Paper, which was considered less accurate.

(For authentic text, see Government's Green Paper on Abortion, September 1999, page 5, Government Publications, £5)


12 February, 2002

The Constitution

(Article 40)

For authentic text, see  http://www.irlgov.ie/taoiseach/publication/constitution/intro.htm
Copy below.



(selected extracts, emphasis added)

     Article 40

1°   All citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law.

This shall not be held to mean that the State shall not in its enactments have due regard to differences of capacity, physical and moral, and of social function.

2°    (re titles of nobility: not shown here)

3.       1° The State guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizen.

          2° The State shall, in particular, by its laws protect as best it may from unjust attack and, in the case of injustice done, vindicate the life, person, good name, and property rights of every citizen.

          3° The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the  mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

          This subsection shall not limit freedom to travel between the State and another state.

          This subsection shall not limit freedom to obtain or make available, in the State, subject to such conditions as  may be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state.

For authentic text, see  http://www.irlgov.ie/taoiseach/publication/constitution/intro.htm
Also from Govt Publications, previously £1.30

For other extracts on this site, particularly Fundamental Rights,
see consti.htm


12 January, 2002

The Offences Against the Person Act, 1861
and the Bourne case
From Government Green Paper: (emphasis added):

Two sections of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861* are relevant to the question of abortion.

The first of these, section 58, states:

"Every woman being with child who with intent to procure her own miscarriage shall unlawfully administer to herself any poison or noxious thing or shall unlawfully use any instrument or other means whatsoever with the like intent and

whosoever with intent to procure the miscarriage of any woman whether or not she be with child shall unlawfully administer to her or cause to be taken by her any poison or other noxious thing or shall unlawfully use any instrument or other means with the like intent, shall be guilty of felony..."

Section 59 states:

"Whosoever shall unlawfully supply or procure any poison or other noxious thing or any instrument whatsoever knowing that the same is intended to be unlawfully used or employed with intent to procure the miscarriage of any woman, whether she be or not be with child, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour..."

These provisions were confirmed by section 10 of the Health (Family Planning) Act, 1979.

* The provisions of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861 now fall to be interpreted in the light of the judgement of the Supreme Court in the X case (see paragraphs 2.14 and 2.15).

See also Chapter 2 Government Green Paper September 1999, page 25, Government Publications, £5)

Rex v Bourne

In the UK, The Offences against the Person Act 1929, (for which there is no equivalent in the Republic of Ireland), was passed to protect the child in the process of being born.  It also permitted an abortion to be carried out in good faith to preserve the life of the mother.  This was always described as "induced birth" and doctors were compelled to do everything possible to save the life of the child as well as the woman. (Source: Love your onborn neighbour, p 62).
However, a test case in 1938 provoked by gyneacologist Aleck Bourne succeeded in widening the grounds.

Bourne decided to abort a 14-year old girl who had been raped by a number of soldiers.  (Suicide did not seem to have been an issue).  Bourne's justification for his plea of not guilty was that he felt the girl's mental health would have been adversely affected by giving birth.

Bourne was acquitted.  In a controversial summing up by Mr Justice Macnaghten, he stated, without any authority, that the abortion provison in the 1929 Act should be read back to the 1861 Act, and that in his view there was no essential difference between risk to the mother's life and damage to her health.

He also said an abortion would be lawful if carried out to prevent a woman becoming "a physical or mental wreck".

Bourne was to later realise what he had done, and complained:

"Mr Justice Macnaghten, in his summing up, included the word mental "wreck" as justifying the operation.   This gave a wide latitude to phoney psychiatrists for giving certificates, as second opinions, on a plea of mental disturbance due to an unwanted pregnancy, especially in the unmarried ... The common threats of suicide, which I have so often heard, are usually a form of blackmail."
Evidence to the Irish All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution hearings on Abortion, suggested, inter alia, that pregnancy was protective against suicide.

Aleck Bourne, a courageous man, became more and more appalled by the results of his case.  He was totally opposed to the Abortion Act which he predicted would lead to the "greatest holocaust in history".  He became a founder member of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, and remained a member of the Executive Committee until his death.  (Source: Love your unborn neighbour)


28 January 2002

Some Links
Pro-life -No

Brian Flanagan: www.abortionreferendum2002.com, resource website, Yes and No.
Mother and Child Campaign
Youth Defence

Pro-life -Yes

Galway for Life, including statement in support of referendum
Irish Bishops Conference, statement in support of referendum
Pro-Life Campaign

Pro-life -Other

Precious Life (Northern Ireland)
Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) UK
UK LifeLeague

Abortion Act, 1967, as amended (UK) (unverified copy)

Legislation, generally, guide to
Referendum Commission, info on Referendum proposals
Referendum Commission, functions of, Bill to amend
Referendum on Abortion, Bill, as initiated

And Reading
Fifth Progress Report: Abortion, The All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, Government Publications Sales OfficeNovember 2000, Ph: 01 661 3111 ext 4040, E19.06

Evangelium Vitae, (The Gospel of Life), by Pope John Paul II,  Veritas, March 1955,  Ph: 01 878 8177, £4.99

The Second Partitioning of Ireland, by Tom Hesketh, Brandsma Books Ltd, 1990, Ph: 01 280 3540, £16.50The abortion referendum of 1983.

Mother and Child Campaign:
        (Ph: 01 873 0463)

Submission to Government Green Paper Group, March 1998.  P.O.A.

Submission to Government White Paper, November 1999, P.O.A.

The Pro-Life Campaign:
       (Ph: 01 874 8090)

The Way Forward: Submission of PLC to Interdepartmental Working Group on the Green Paper, outlining the case for a legal prohibition on abortion. March 1998.  P.O.A.

Valuing All Human Life: Submission of PLC to the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, outlining the case for a legal prohibition on abortion. November 1999.  P.O.A.

16 January 2002