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Monday, 11 March, 2002, 11:04 GMT
Irish abortion: Your reaction to the referendum result?
The Republic of Ireland has narrowly voted against a change to its constitution which would have ruled out a mother's threat of suicide being used as justification for an abortion.

The issue has proven a divisive one in the country's recent history, not least throughout this year's referendum campaign. Abortion is currently illegal in Ireland except in cases where there is a threat to the life of a pregnant woman.

Under the proposal, put forward by Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, it would have remained legal for doctors to carry out an abortion if it was necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman. However the proposed legislation would have ruled out the threat of suicide as grounds for a termination.

Out of the 42% of the country's population who voted, 50.4% voted No, while Yes votes tallied 49.6%. Conceding defeat on Thursday, Mr Ahern said his "honest and genuine attempt" to strengthen abortion laws had "been narrowly defeated".

What is your reaction to the referendum result? What are the implications for future abortion legislation in Ireland?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Ireland will have to go through its growing pains just like every one else

Elizabeth Dillon, USA
Abortion... the solution that won't go away. "Just say no" obviously doesn't work but which is worse, abortion or child abuse? Ireland will have to go through its growing pains just like every one else.
Elizabeth Dillon, USA

Having read most of the comments on display here, I have come to the conclusion that the most dangerous and damaging aspect of the whole abortion debate is religion. I therefore suggest that banning it altogether is the only thing that would bring true perspective to the situation. In any situation regarding life and death, I certainly would not accept any ruling based on the hypothetical teachings of someone else's 'imaginary friend'.
Jack, UK

Since abortion is legal in Holland and contraceptives are more easily available teenage pregnancy has fallen dramatically. Backroom abortions with lousy equipment, even knitting needles, have disappeared. No more deaths through fumbled jobs carried out by incompetent "butchers". In the seventies we had a movement called "Baas in eigen buik" (Boss in our own belly) that fought for the right of abortion. The women wanted to decide themselves about their future instead of it being dictated by some men in government. Now we have good sex education at school and the number of abortions is going down. Religion no longer rules everybody and everything. Yes, we also have organisations that are against abortion but they haven't sunk to the level of those in the USA.
Rukie, The Netherlands

The Catholic Church fails to accept that practicing Catholics have sex for pleasure

Simon UK/ Ireland
I believe the outcome of this referendum is good for Ireland, however, this whole exercise further highlights the dangerous attitude of the Catholic Church towards sex: The Catholic Church fails to accept that practicing Catholics have sex for pleasure (both in and out of marriage), and not just for producing children. By legislating against contraception and abortion, they are refusing to accept the reality of the situation, with dangerous consequences. The reality is Catholics have sex for pleasure, including their own priests. The fact that it is against Catholic teachings doesn't stop it from happening. But rather than accept this and deal with it, the Catholic Church tries to brush it under the carpet, which results in many (avoidable) problems (such as this whole abortion debate). The Catholic Church has to open it's eyes to what is really going on, and accept it, rather than turn a blind eye, as it has so often done in the past.
Simon, UK/Finland

What strikes me most about the pro abortion lobby is that they are so determined to enjoy their rights and so determined not to take responsibility for them. Having sex, protected or not, can lead to pregnancy. If a couple are not prepared to accept the possible consequences of their actions then they should not be having sex.
Stephen , UK

Let's not lose the run of ourselves. The referendum was not lost on a 'yea or nay' debate on abortion. Rather, it was a vague question on the notion of whether suicide is to be considered as legal grounds for abortion, or not. It was based on a court case which had occurred a number of years ago, to a poor unfortunate girl. The electorate did not know the answer, because we're not lawyers, or experts in this field. My suggestion referendum is the following: I would like the government to legislate for abortion given one of the following circumstances:
a) None
b) Where the mother is at high risk of death - not including suicide
c) Where the mother is at high risk of death - including suicide
d) In limited circumstances - eg ill-health, depression, drug dependency, etc.
e) As a free choice for a limited amount of time, eg six weeks
f) As a free choice up to birth.
Such a referendum might finally end a hijacking of Irish hearts and minds by extremists that has been going on for years. The Government could legislate according to the wishes of the majority, and the pro-unborn and anti-life lobbies could find something else to fight about.
Dermot, Ireland

This result is shameful

Alec, Channel Islands
I think this result is shameful. It's disappointing that the Irish government's proposal failed, particularly by such a narrow margin.
Alec, Channel Islands

Irrespective of the rights or wrongs of abortion there is one bright and shining outcome of this referendum - the Irish people, after centuries of control by the Catholic Church, appear to have woken up to democracy, politely brushing aside the controlling hand of the priesthood and are deciding matters for themselves. More power to them, I say. The world has suffered enough under the non-democratic control of small elitist groups who claim to know best and demand absolute obedience to their rules.
John Brownlee, England

Abortion isn't a nice thing but neither is dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. Especially when the father of your baby isn't interested.
Janice, USA

I find it fairly nauseating that so many men here are declaiming against abortion in righteous tones. Women don't just mysteriously get pregnant you know! Yes, it takes two. But I wonder how many women have an abortion because the man they trusted and loved disappeared as soon as the word 'baby' was mentioned?

These men will never have to make the agonising decision of whether to terminate a pregnancy or not. No woman has an abortion lightly. No woman ever goes through one without thinking about it every day for years afterwards. And too few men support them in this decision and its aftermath. If there was less hot air about the 'evil' of abortion, and more men took proper responsibility for their actions, both during and after sex, then perhaps less women would feel compelled to terminate a pregnancy.
Kate, UK

It still won't allow access to ordinary people to have an abortion

Christopher Laird, Japan
Exactly how many births will this allow? I mean how many women in Ireland are suicidal if they don't have an abortion? Isn't this the only result of this referendum? It still won't allow access to ordinary people to have an abortion. I don't agree with abortion as a (regular) method of birth control, but I believe it should be an option in situations where conditions mean that a child would be either unloved, unwanted, or in danger. I agree partially with Kate, UK that men should bear more responsibility for their actions, but on the other side of the coin, it takes two to tango, and the responsibility lies with both parties.
Christopher Laird, Japan

Politicians are, by and large, men. Priests are men. The ones needing an abortion are women. Holding a referendum does not change the fact that it is the wrong people legislating and deciding on women's issues, women's bodies and women's lives. It makes me furious. And even more helpless.
Vera, Scandinavia

In free societies civil liberties should never be put to a vote

Rob, UK
In free societies civil liberties should never be put to a vote. Tyranny of the majority can result in unfair and unreasonable laws against the minority. Over a wide range of issues, everyone will find themselves in the minority sooner or later.
Rob, UK

In a world where population issues are mounting day by day, we can at last see that people are starting to realise that sometimes bringing an unwanted child into the world would do more harm than good in the long term. I for one think that they made the right decision.
Benjamin Maffin, England

This is a brilliant result for Ireland and the liberal agenda. It is time that people in rural Ireland got a grip of the world and got rid of their traditional and religious stand point. The issue of abortion has no relevance to many of the older generation in rural areas who voted yes today. I'm 18 and I feel the traditional views passed by such voters should realise that it will be the young people of Ireland, like myself, who are going to have to live in the society of the future. Well done to the urban voters for supporting the right of free choice that women are entitled to.
Alex, Dublin, Ireland

Any woman who has had an abortion can assure you that it is not a recommended form of contraception. It is a harrowing, emotional experience that never leaves you.
Ana, New Zealand

As a Catholic I am disappointed with the direction that Ireland is going on the abortion issue. This result proves that Ireland sadly seems to be going the way of America and the rest of Europe. May God have mercy on Ireland.
Allen Muldano, USA

I agree with the result but I believe that abortion should be legal. What right has the Irish government got to say whether a woman is allowed a termination or not - it is the right of the individual.
Eva Tellick, England

Suppose it had become illegal to abort a baby because the mother was suicidal. If she did commit suicide because there was no way out, you'd be even worse off as neither the mother nor her unborn would survive.
Alex Banks, UK

I wonder how many teenage pregnancies there would be if abortion was not allowed. I wish my country had guts like Ireland to stand up for what's right.
Dennis, New Zealand

If abortion in Ireland is illegal because the Catholic faith forbids it then all forms of contraception should be removed from Irish shops

Ali Bushell, UK
As usual religion is one of the major factors in this argument, and as usual people pick and choose which bits of the religious argument they want to pay attention to. If abortion in Ireland is illegal because the Catholic faith forbids it then we should also expect to see all forms of contraception removed from all shops in Ireland. The sale of meat should be forbidden during lent. Divorce should be illegal too unless the Pope gives a personal dispensation for annulment. If you're going to legislate according to religion, do it completely or not at all, or you're merely using it to support your political aims, not to protect religious sensibilities.
Ali Bushell, UK

As an Irish resident, I'm pleased to say that the hand-wringing, authoritarian, church-directed moral bullies have been defeated. Abortion is a nasty subject, but everyone should have the right to bodily self-determination. It was moral cowardice on the part of the government to hold this referendum. It can adopt moral postures while knowing that in reality the UK will clean up the mess.
Finbar Lynch, Ireland

Years from now when life is proven to have begun at birth the people will look back in disgust at abortion being used as an emergency form of contraception and will view us in the same light as we view medieval doctors who bored holes into patients heads to treat headaches. The fact is, as science has progressed, we are able to save babies born prematurely. But we are in danger of a situation occurring where if you are born in maternity you live, if you are an unwanted child your life is extinguished before it has even begun.
Paul, UK

It's probably worth pointing out that the Catholic Church's attempts to restrict and stigmatise contraception has probably resulted in more abortions than any other factor!
Patrick, UK

It should be up to the woman. If men were capable of becoming pregnant I wonder if the present laws would have been passed in the first place.
Ian, UK

Abortion has been legal in the US for nearly 30 years. During those 30 years, we have slid into a moral and cultural filth that may yet be the end of us. Whether one personally agrees with abortion has nothing to do with it. Killing the most vulnerable citizens speaks volumes about where a society is headed.
Richard, USA

Can we leave God out of this issue please as it is not he who has to deal with the day to day physical, psychological and financial trials and tribulations of bringing up an unwanted child?
E Coldwell, England

E Coldwell writes: "Can we leave God out of it?" But can we? This issue is about whether abortion is right or wrong. The whole human race has different ideas about this so who can say who is right. But if people read that dusty book on the shelf, they would see that there is a standard. Okay - take God out of it and morals, ethics, right and wrong have no value. It all becomes relative.
David, England

All the women of Ireland should deny the men sex. I wonder how long they would last before the law was changed. It takes two to make a baby, but the woman is the only one who has to bear the consequences. Men can just go on 'sowing their oats' with impunity. To all the rabid pro-life men I would ask you to start taking some of the responsibility for your actions, and not force women into these painful decisions. It's not you who has to carry and care for the child if it is not wanted.
Jo, UK

The so-called Celtic Tiger should be reinventing itself

Martin, UK
I personally don't agree with abortion on moral grounds but I do fully accept that each individual should have the right to choose and that right should be set down in law. Bertie seems to adopt a moral line on abortion but not on having a live-in partner. His Catholicism seems to be about picking and choosing. Perhaps it's an election ploy. I think his proposal is cowardly and extremely hypocritical. The so-called Celtic Tiger should be reinventing itself, moving towards a modern egalitarian democratic state, where all citizens have the right to choose.
Martin, UK

If some people think that men are nothing to do with the abortion choice, then why are fathers pursued for money when an unwanted child is born?
Claire, UK

If a country such as Ireland is so against legal abortion, why did they rule to give women access to information regarding abortion clinics in the UK? This is a mixture of both hypocrisy and pushing an Irish issue onto UK soil.
Louise, England

I spoilt my vote by writing 'confused, bemused and shamed' on my polling card

John Finegan, Ireland
I am just back from the polling booth where I spoilt my vote by writing 'confused, bemused and shamed' on my polling card. I for one don't agree with abortion but the clowns who we call politicians in Dublin have turned the referendum into a derisive campaign. One doesn't know if by voting yes, you mean no and visa versa. It should have been simply put to the people if they want abortion - yes or no. It is as simple as that.
John Finegan, Ireland

Women have been aborting foetuses for centuries. Why is it that so many cultures choose to deny this reality? Abortion will always happen. Whether we choose to endanger the life of the woman by failing to provide access to safe and affordable abortion is the real choice here. Sometimes, even with the best protection, women become pregnant. Some realise that they do not want to become mothers, and choose to abort. Shall we force women to have children they don't want, so that the child is abandoned, or worse yet, kept and reviled throughout its life? Abortion is a personal choice, and it's no one's business but the woman's. I fail to see why this is so difficult for so many to understand.
Patti M, USA

Unless you can guarantee that all men will pay adequate child support, that all children put up for adoption will find good homes, and that all rapists will receive adequate punishment, I think the answer to the abortion issue is obvious.
Jennifer Ethington, USA

Why do people think the foetus is a human being?

Kim, Scotland
Why do people think the foetus is a human being? I do not think that it should be. Is it a sentient being? Has it got self-awareness? Can it think and act rationally? No, up to a point it is just a cluster of cells. I am originally from Northern Ireland, and I hate the fact that abortion is illegal there. It is every woman's individual choice, and no government has the right to legislate against that.
Kim, Scotland

Kim from Scotland: If a foetus is not a human being what is it? It seems to me that when a pregnancy is wanted and planned, the baby is a baby from the moment the mother knows of its existence, and yet if the pregnancy is unwanted it is just a piece of surplus tissue. I am not wholly against abortion - I think there are times when it should be offered - but we should recognise exactly what it is we are doing.
Jane, Wales, UK

It never ceases to amaze me that women are thought of as less important than a few weeks' worth of embryo growth

Sarah, UK
It seems that if you're female, everything is wrong. Abortion is wrong. So is contraception. So is having a baby as a single mother. So is having sex in the first place. So is not having sex with the nice man who asks you. So then if he rapes you, wanting to be rid of the resulting pregnancy is wrong. What can you do if you're female and don't want to be judged? Become a nun? It never ceases to amaze me that women, fully grown, mature, sentient woman, capable of rational thoughts and complex emotions are thought of as less important than a few weeks' worth of embryo growth. That embryo may develop into a human. It may be miscarried. Either way it is not more important than the woman carrying it. It is a potential human being, not a developed one. Women really are considered the bottom of the pile when it comes to human rights, aren't they?
Sarah, UK

It's a clear-cut violation of human rights. Words fail me...
Gordon, UK/USA

Bravo to Sarah. I'm sick of reading the extreme pro-life views written by some arrogant men. To Gordon, US/UK: I assume you are talking about women's human rights, not the rights of the foetus.
Kirsty, UK/US

To Kirsty UK/USA: Of course I meant women's human rights. As far as I'm concerned there's only one person who has the right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy or not and that is the young girl or woman whose life it will affect. A question to these extremists: why do they count the age of a child from the time it is born and not from conception?
Gordon, UK/USA

It is time for the Irish Government to face its responsibilities. How hypocritical it is to force thousands of women to go to England to have an abortion. The authorities have to admit that abortion does exist in Ireland even if it does not occur on its territory. Strengthening the law, which is already so backward, would do nothing but abuse even more women's rights in Ireland. In my country, abortion has been legal since 1974. It does not mean it has become a means of contraception. This act is still far from banal and the decision still so difficult and traumatising.
Marjorie, France

If the State or the Church legislates against both contraception and abortion then they should be prepared to arrange to look after all unwanted children.
Brian W, UK

I do not think that killing an innocent victim is the solution if it can be proven that life begins at conception

Dave, Dublin, Ireland
The whole debate on abortion should centre on the issue of when life begins. If life begins at conception then abortion is murder and if it begins somewhere else then abortion is okay up to the point where life begins. Statements such as "it's a woman's choice", "poor Ann can't afford a baby" are not valid arguments. While I accept that rape is a horrendous crime, I do not think that the solution is to kill an innocent victim if it can be proven that life begins at conception. Could someone who is pro abortion please tell me where they think life begins and why they think that. Otherwise all their arguments are completely irrelevant.
Dave, Dublin, Ireland

Dave, Dublin: I am not necessarily pro-abortion but I am pro-choice. I believe life begins at the time when the law recognises the start of life - that is when the born baby takes its first breath of air. Babies are not registered as being alive until they are born and breathing so giving legal rights to an unborn foetus is hardly logical. I fully support, however, the medical profession's decision that all terminations should be in the first trimester when the foetus is forming, after that the operation of aborting an unborn baby is more dangerous for the mother. However, until life is recognised legally - ie. until the child is born - the woman should hold all rights over what is going on with and in her body - including the right to choose what medical services she needs or does not need. I do not consider it murder to abort something that is not legally recognised as being alive.
Sharon B, UK

When does an unborn child become a human being? Is it 22 weeks after conception? So does that mean that a baby 21 weeks and six days old is not human? Can we really set a borderline for when it is too late for an abortion? If the abortion law is passed in Ireland, this is the next problem they have to decide because some innocent human lives are going to end up in hospital waste. I believe human life begins at the moment of conception and to abort any time after that is killing a human being by the above reasoning.
David, England

Ireland are a free democracy and they can choose whatever laws they wish for their society regardless of whether we in England would choose the same

Alex Keenleyside, England
Much has been said on this issue and I respect fully all the opinions I have read here, but I believe one point has been missed. Ireland are a free democracy and they can choose whatever laws they wish for their society regardless of whether we in England would choose the same. Good luck to the Irish on whatever decision they make. People tend to get the society they deserve and Ireland will be no different.
Alex Keenleyside, England

A message to Raula: - for those men who deny a woman's self determination over her own body, I agree with the sentiments expressed. As a man it makes me angry enough to apply an equally stupid sanction on them as they are advocating when they say there are no circumstances whatever to justify an abortion and that the will of the mother is secondary to the perceived will of the foetus she carries. But there are plenty of women also who would willingly deny the woman's right to chose under any circumstances - I would like to hear your (colourful!) views on them.
Samuel, UK

Subjects such as this need to be debated rationally, and without undue pressure from tainted and (often) archaic religious principles

Simon, UK/Finland
There are two groups that should have nothing whatsoever to do with any debate on abortion: Firstly, men. Isn't a case where a man forces his will upon a woman's body against her wishes called rape? The right (or not) to an abortion has nothing to do with us males I'm afraid. And secondly, religion. The health and well being of the population is of paramount importance. Subjects such as this need to be debated rationally, and without undue pressure from tainted and (often) archaic religious principles, which are in fact detrimental to the health and well being of society. Remove these two groups, and let women debate it sensibly!
Simon, UK/Finland

Are we making decisions on behalf of the foetus? If so, are we acting in its best interests by chopping its body up and burning it? Most people see a foetus as an 'egg' and not like a 3lb miniature baby - hence their ability to agree to the destruction of the unborn child. The woman has a choice in the matter, the unborn do not.
Martina, UK

I'm not keen on the idea of abortion, but I see it has its place. To deny a suicidal woman an abortion will inevitably result in the death of the foetus anyway when the woman kills herself. Is that preferable?

How many Irish women come to have an abortion in the UK in the NHS? Why should the British taxpayer pay for them?
Ülle, Scotland

In its early stages a foetus is entirely dependent on it's mother for life. When the child reaches viability then it becomes a person with it's own rights, but before that it is part of the mother and can only use the mother's oxygen and the mother's nutrition. Therefore it is the mother's body and hers to choose what to do with it.
Rod, UK

I disagree highly with abortion. I feel that it is murder and that people shouldn't be allowed to have them. Why should they get away with killing a human life? Although you cannot see the baby it is a living thing and it should be treated like every other human on earth.
Leah, Northern Ireland

An unborn sparrow has more protection than an unborn child

David Bellerby, England
An unborn sparrow has more protection than an unborn child. All wild birds eggs are protected - even those that are pests, this is depths to which our society has sunk!
David Bellerby, England

This referendum will make little difference in the broad scheme of things. A "yes" will not prevent abortions since they are available a short ferry ride across the Irish sea to those that want them, and a "no" will simply preserve the current status quo. And a short sighted, mediaeval, self-righteous status quo which imposes a blanket set of views on everyone it is too.
Simon Holt, UK

I think Andy, UK has the right idea. After all the Bible does teach that God gave us the gift of being able to choose whether to do right or even if the Catholic view is that abortion is wrong they should let women have the opportunity to choose what they do.
Rachel, UK

It's odd, isn't it, that so many of the contributors on another of these Talking Points feel that the parents of the disfigured little girl in Newcastle have the right of veto over essential medical treatment, but so many here are against a woman's right to decide whether or not to become a parent in the first place.
Georgie Godby, UK

Why don't they allow abortions, and if a woman is morally opposed to them, she needn't have one

Andy, UK
Why don't they allow abortions, and if a woman is morally opposed to them, she needn't have one. If a woman is in favour of them, she has the right to choose. It's all common sense to me!
Andy, UK

It is legally, morally, and ethically wrong to deny the right to life through abortion. I do believe that it is cold-hearted to deny abortion in extreme circumstances, such as rape or life of mother. Yet, it is even more cold-hearted to willingly carry out the murder of an innocent child.
Chris, USA

I remember that case of a young under-aged Irish girl who was raped in late 80s or early 90s in Ireland: I will never forget the frantic parents' plea's to let her have an abortion. They interviewed some priest on TV, and he said that she 'should have a baby because God gave it to her, and it will be good for her in the end". Horrific. I don't remember what happened in the end, I hope she managed to have an abortion.
Anon, New Zealand

"It's against God's will!" You know that rational debate on a subject has ended as soon as people start trying to justify their opinions by claiming the support of supernatural forces. Why not try thinking for yourselves.
Andy, UK

I'm no feminist (I'm a bloke for a start) but I've never understood why some men get so upset by what women (who they don't even know) choose to do with a foetus inside their own body. Seems to me like its none of their business and if its for religious reasons then all the more justification for opposing such medieval morality.
Ade, England

There is much talk of women's rights and human rights on this page. We are not only endowed with rights but are required to be responsible people. Responsible firstly for our own actions but also responsible for the good of those around us. Pregnancy should be seen as a fundamentally positive thing for society and not just a source of population growth. Until now Ireland has cherished the family and its children as its primary source of strength. It would be a shame to lose this fundamentally humane ideal of the society which we hold dear.
James, Ireland

I have to live with the idea that we killed a life form

Ed, England
I believe everyone should have the right to choose. I am 20 and a few years back my girlfriend fell pregnant. She was 17. I was only just 18 and just about to start my career. It genuinely wasn't our fault. I used a condom that split - so the next morning she went to the doctors and had the morning after pill, which didn't work either. Our doctor said to us that we were one of the 0.01% that this happens to. We both decided to get an abortion for her.

The idea of just popping in to some clinic to have an abortion sounds so cold, so selfish. But it isn't - far from it. My girlfriend and I have to live with the idea that we killed a life form that was ready to grow... it's hard to explain exactly what I want to say because there is NO way of describing our feelings at that time. I can tell you one thing though - we don't regret doing it at all.
Ed, England

Ethical debates are stifled in countries where religion is the predominant factor

Andy, UK
What happens regarding this issue in Eire has little to do with the UK. I believe the Irish government to be robust and in many ways more pragmatic and effective than our own. On the issue of abortion, I think the Irish need to move on. Its opposition to abortion stems from a time when religion frightened people into behaving in a particular way. Ethical and scientific debates are always stifled in countries where religion is the predominant factor in passing law. Ireland has long since given up its status as a religiously oppressed, ill-educated state.
Andy, UK

It's amazing how the Irish fought for independence from the UK, only to replace rule from London with rule from Rome.
Peter, UK

Only God is perfectly holy

Antonia, UK
The Bible does permit abortion in extreme cases. It makes no sense for a Christian to declare that human life is absolutely sacred because only God is perfectly holy. Furthermore, many Catholic pro-lifers are in favour of the death penalty and 'just war', so clearly they don't hold all life sacred. The only religion which holds all life sacred is Buddhism, which is why it is pro-vegetarian and against war. It is also disingenuous to say that a four-week old foetus, for example, is equal to a born human being, child or adult; he or she is not mentally or physically autonomous, so arguably not morally autonomous. Thus to talk about equality is a misleading way of conducting the abortion debate.
Antonia, UK

I suggest to the women of Ireland that they should refuse to take part in sexual relations until such times as they regain control over their own bodies and the consequences of the sexual act. I'm sure this would encourage a rethink on the basic human rights of contraception and abortion.
Kim, UK

Many of the arguments against abortion on this page seem to invoke God, or at least a reactionary-conservative God that doesn't permit abortion. Those who believe in a more liberal God who lets people make their own decisions on reproduction should be given the appropriate freedoms.
Emrys, Britain

The government's preoccupation with the right to life ends when that child is born

Patricia, Ireland
I will be voting no to tomorrow's referendum. The government is obsessed with protecting the unborn child, yet those of my friends who have chosen not to have abortions have been offered no support by government agencies. Try finding a place to live in Dublin if you are a single mother, try feeding a child, try clothing a child. It seems to me that the government's preoccupation with the right to life of the unborn ends when that child is born. Education, sympathy and support are needed.
Patricia, Ireland

A referendum is an appalling way to deal with such an issue

Austin Rock, Ireland
Dishonesty is typically the order of the day. To use abortion as a contraceptive is primitive and medieval. To ask a pregnant woman to carry a dead foetus for seven months is equally horrendous. To use suicide as a means to attain a political objective i.e. abortion on demand is dishonest and medically incorrect. I have a beautiful, treasured adopted son, who was born to a 15-year-old who was raped within her own family. Both the birth mother and her son have reconciled their existence. Remember this issue is not black and white. A referendum is an appalling way to deal with such an issue.
Austin Rock, Ireland

If a person falls pregnant through rape it is understandable that she will not want that child

Bethan, England
As abortion is available for English, Welsh and Scottish people it should also be available for the Irish republic. If a person falls pregnant through rape it is understandable that she will not want that child. It is not endangering her physically but definitely is mentally. And this is where it becomes dangerous. Why not allow it under special circumstances?
Bethan, England

Allow abortion now and let individuals make their own important choices in the Ireland of the 21st century.
Eamon, Dublin, Ireland

God has given life, and these people don't have the right to kill

Many women get pregnant 'by mistake' then carry out an abortion. How dare they? They have no right to kill a human being, another life. If God has given life these people don't have the right to kill them, because it was a 'mistake'.

For the few stupid men who tried to express their sexist opinions: if you are going to accuse women of taking control of THEIR OWN body and sent them to jail for having abortions then at least half of the men population should be in jail since it's their sperm who got in a woman's womb at the first place! It is men's responsibility that there is no contraception pill for them in the market although it's been more than 10 years the pill for women was developed! It is men's fault that progress towards that direction was not accomplished since from studies most men would deny taking the pill due to side effects it might cause -as seen from latest studies- which are not different from the ones women have at the moment with their pill! Why not put every man in jail then, this will ensure there won't be any abortions!!!
Roula, UK

After reading some of the ill-considered and wholly unjustified vitriol that your female contributors are hurling at men, I'm surprised that they ever get into a situation where abortion might be necessary. What man would waste good sperm on such a bunch of irrational shrews?
Mr. Angry, England

This debate has nothing to do with women's rights

Alistair Strachan, Northern Ireland
How Ruala can be so pig-headed is beyond me. This debate has nothing to do with women's rights, and has everything to do with a child's right to life. All our civil rights are superceded by the rights of other humans to life, and this is no different.
Alistair Strachan, Northern Ireland

I think that being Irish is important and I think that being a Catholic is important too. I think that as Ireland is a Catholic country, it should not let abortion be legal.
Ryan McLean, United Kingdom

It is funny really. The Catholic church is full of stupid contradictions. They talk about respecting life and say that life is sacred. Pah! Cobblers! Just take a look at your history. Respect for life, don't make me laugh. I think this goes for most religions! As far as I'm concerned, the only place for religion is in the history books.

Some people think that abortion is morally equivalent to murder, so it's quite clear why they think it should be illegal. But the simple fact is that it isn't - not so much because of the complicated philosophical arguments about the rights of women to control their bodies, but really just because not everyone agrees. The fact that so many people see abortion as qualitatively different to murder means that it is not something that the government has a right to legislate on, except to ensure that women are presented with the full facts before making any decision. And by the way, it's not just the woman's decision - men have rights too, but again, it's just not feasible or appropriate to enshrine these in law in this case.
Jenny, UK

What has this got to do with us?

Gareth Boote, England
What has this got to do with us? Ireland is an independent country which is well able to decide its own affairs without our interference.
Gareth Boote, England

If human life begins even whilst the egg is still a single cell, then it is a very small step to the argument that all eggs and all sperm have the right to meet at every opportunity. In practice this means that all women and girls should be obliged to have unprotected sex at every ovulation from puberty to the menopause. This is clearly ridiculous, as is any attempt to restrict abortion, especially where contraception is banned and it is not illegal to leave the country and have an abortion elsewhere.
Steve, UK

The only person who should be responsible for making the decision to abort a foetus is the person who is carrying it. It should be the right of every female to be able to make a decision about her own body. I am disgusted that the Irish Government has decided to allow a referendum on this most emotional issue. I am even more upset that MEN are allowed to take part. If the Irish Government wants a referendum, then it should be specifically targeted at the female population.
Denise, UK

Pregnancy is a result (for those who weren't sure) of two people engaging in a specific act. As such, any consequence of that act is the RESPONSIBILITY of those two people and not any government or religion. The Irish Government may well get more mileage from investing in educating people about this responsibility. On the dark side, the danger is that it becomes an alternative to contraception which would be a serious step back. Give people the information needed to make informed decisions about their life but make it morally unacceptable to abuse those freedoms.
Christopher Laird, JAPAN

Abortion should not be used as a tool to correct our promiscuous lifestyles

Chippla Vandu, Netherlands
As much as possible, abortions should be discouraged. In cases of rape or danger to the health of the mother, then there should be room for consensus. However abortion should not be used as a tool to correct our promiscuous lifestyles or as a means of family planning. The unborn child should have a right to live - indeed it is a human being. Ireland is setting an example and the rest of Europe ought to follow.
Chippla Vandu, Netherlands

As an Irishman I am disgusted. Firstly, this should not be decided in a referendum - it is a personal issue. Secondly, why do men have a vote? There are so many issues with this disgraceful legislation. They are trying to ban the morning after pill and IUDs because they now say that life begins on insertion of the sperm and not implantation of the egg - how crazy is this? Not one cell has even divided yet. If a woman receives an abortion she will receive 12 years in jail. They will not abort in cases of incest or rape. Welcome to the developing world where we deny rights! If Ireland allowed abortion, but counselling was made compulsory there would be less Irish abortions. I implore any lawyers out there to challenge these laws under the human rights act. Please, this is an issue of freedom and personal choice.
Sean, UK

Hear hear, Sean the Irishman from UK. Why do men have a vote on this issue? It is entirely up to the woman to decide whether or not she can cope with the baby. I am not for abortion as a means of contraception but making it illegal will only force women to have botched up backstreet abortions - hardly progress in the 21st century!
Sandy, Northern Ireland

I am puzzled by what appears to be the prevailing view in Europe: the death penalty is wrong, yet the life of the unborn child is treated as though it is a commodity that we can dispose of when it suits us. All life is sacred. It seems to me that we don't even hold the life of the unborn child in as high esteem as that of the murderer, child killer or war criminal.
Mark, UK

Abortion is killing someone who is too young to defend themself

Abortion is killing someone who is too young to defend themself, for the convenience of those who should know better. As far as I am concerned the moral issue is clear cut, but the practical problem is what the law allows given that not everybody has the same morality, and the very real probability of people breaking it anyway. The best the law can hope to do with this kind of thing is control it, since it can't prevent it; those with high enough morals will do the right thing anyway, those who haven't may at least be persuaded to stay within the law.

I wonder if women in Northern Ireland will have the same choice?

Sarah Kerr, England
I come from Northern Ireland originally and I think it's a step in the right direction for the Republic of Ireland to have this referendum - it shows a positive step away from being ruled by the church. I wonder if women in Northern Ireland will have the same choice or will they still have to go to England in order to have control over their bodies?
Sarah Kerr, England

The problem in Ireland is that birth control is also considered immoral, but in today's society young unmarried people are having sex, that is a fact. With no birth control on offer then more unwanted pregnancies are going to occur so the government needs to face these facts and wake up to reality and put in place the option for women to make the choice of having an unwanted baby or not. They should either offer decent birth control or the right to abortions.

Women should have the freedom to choose whether or not to terminate the life of the foetus in them. Imposing legislation on abortion may seem to be an issue of moral values and religious obligations, but it also restricts a woman's freedom to choose. By restricting their choices with regard to the foetus inside them is not only a form of disrespect for women, but also a step closer to forming an authoritarian society.
Trixie, Singapore

Making abortion legal could encourage more women to consider having it done, which I feel is morally wrong!
John Campbell, Northern Ireland

It is pointless forcing a woman to bring a baby into the world that would ruin her own life

Richard Drozda, England
The mother's health and psychological well-being should take priority over ALL else. This means if she isn't ready to be a mother, financially, socially, or whatever, she should be allowed to choose to have a termination. It is pointless forcing a woman to bring a baby into the world that would ruin her own life, and offer very little quality of life to the child.
Richard Drozda, England

Abortion is not a fit subject for the law, in Ireland or anywhere else. A foetus is part of a woman's body. She, and only she, has the right to decide whether to carry it to term or not. All restrictions on this are pillars of the universal macho-theocratic perversion that rules the world and demeans women.
Hermione O'Brien, Italy

Abortion is ending a human life. This is not a moral issue, but simply a case of protecting the unborn child.
Richard L, UK

I think the UK's abortion rule is more or less right

Andy Brown, UK
The Irish can vote for what they like but the influence of so-called religions in state affairs is to be deplored. I think the UK's abortion rule is more or less right.
Andy Brown, UK

Article 8 of the Human Rights Act: Right to respect for private and family life. This right covers "The right to control your body." Surely this overrules any Irish abortion law?
Gazza, England

The relationship in Ireland between the state and the church is an important one. It is also fundamentally correct in its doctrine against abortion. The rules permit where an expectant mother is an imminent danger is there only a necessity to abort premature life. My own personal feelings on the subject, is that the more laws are tightened the better because of life being sacred and because God has given that life in the first place and only he has ostensible authority over each and every one of us. Ireland is a European member of the now embraced European Union responding pragmatically to 'freedom to life'. Subsequent arguments to this concept are also not being open to abuse and so the decision of the Irish Government in my opinion is a correct one.
Mark Dowe, Scotland

The worst thing for Ireland would be to be seen as a totalitarian, fundamentalist state at a time when most modern countries are moving towards a more secular forms of government

Brendan Fernandes, UK
Whilst I believe that abortion is really a last resort and should be discouraged, it is also clear that it is a contentious issue best left to the conscience of the individual parent(s) concerned: democracy or not, it is not for anybody to impose their morality over others on such a personal matter. Perhaps in discouraging abortion - via, for example, education at schools - more emphasis should be put on the fact that abortion can be a particularly traumatic experience for the mother. But discouragement it should be, rather than imposition - the worst thing for Ireland would be to be seen as a totalitarian, fundamentalist state at a time when most modern countries are moving towards a more secular forms of government.
Brendan Fernandes, UK

The choice should be left up to the women and it is better than her dying from the immoral backstreets abortions.
Becky Smith, England

Pregnant women who don't want their child, should have it fostered or adopted. Medical tests show that abortion is not healthy for the mother, and often can lead to bouts of serious depression later in life. Abortion isn't exactly healthy for the child either...
Paul, Ireland

The politicians have made a real mess with this referendum

Sarah Mary, Dublin
The politicians have made a real mess with this referendum. The electorate are confused and the continuing debate does nothing to help dismiss that confusion. Abortion is not a clear cut issue and asking the great electorate of a country to vote on it is a ridiculous way to sort any law - surely we elect our politicians to legislate so why don't they get on with it?
Sarah Mary, Dublin

Whilst I don't agree with abortion as I would rather unwanted children were adopted, I do believe a woman should have the option to consider it.
Finally, if a woman in Ireland becomes pregnant due to rape, is she allowed the morning after pill or an abortion? If not, by forcing her to carry the unwanted child she is being punished for something she had no control over.
Caron, England

I oppose the proposals. Routinely, Irish women requiring an abortion have the job done in England. Ahern needs to depart from the archaic and draconian rulings of the Catholic church and provide in Ireland the facilities that his people so obviously require.
Any legislation that further tightens Ireland's official stance on abortion is another step back towards the dark ages. In any case, why develop a law based on callous religious dogma, when that law is going to be generally ignored and is, by and large, unenforceable? Far from strengthening the political and religious position, this kind of ruling merely invites contempt for the Church and the Irish government.
Chris B, England

All other countries have had to face the practicalities of this painful issue. Only the Irish have made a virtue of putting the moral burden on others

Jsol, Ireland
There's a yawning chasm between the lofty pronouncements of the bishops and politicians who enthuse about the moral elegance of this amendment and the actual squalid practice of a country that exports six thousand pregnant women to the UK for abortions every year. All other countries have had to face the practicalities of this painful issue. Only the Irish have made a virtue of putting the moral burden on others, while piously wishing that the problem will soon go away. Our moral purism translates in practice into bestial mistreatment of women.
Jsol, Ireland

I do not support the Irish abortion rules but I do not agree with abortion either. I think, as with everything, there are occasions when abortion is necessary, for whatever reasons, and I don't think governments should legislate against people rights to decide for themselves what is right in their case. However, a referendum is probably the correct method to determine what the Irish people want.
Phil T, Oman

History shows that abortion will happen whether or not it is legal. The referendum question should be: "Do you want abortions to be done by back-street quacks or would you prefer them to be done safely and legally?"
Chazza, Scotland

Evil is represented in human form by those who murder, rape, denigrate and impoverish those whom them deem to be less valuable as humans as themselves. The quintessence of this is the lethal attack on life least deserving - the unborn child.
Declan Mc Guinness, Ireland

Whilst totally agreeing this is a very important subject and it throws up many different views, I can't help being amazed at the extent that the electorate in the 26 counties are beating their breasts and talking about the right to life yet for 30 years they kept relatively quiet about the right to life for innocent people living in Northern Ireland.
Mike, Northern Ireland

I'm adopted and I'm glad abortion isn't fully legal in this country because otherwise I might not be here today

Peter O'Neill, Ireland
As an Irishman I strongly support these proposals. They DO NOT BAN the morning after pill or the IUD. They do the following:
A: They say that the risk of suicide by the mother shall not be grounds for an abortion. In this sense they overturn a previous Irish Supreme Court ruling that said it was.

Talking PointFORUM
You asked about the Irish referendum
See also:

07 Mar 02 | Europe
Irish PM concedes abortion defeat
06 Mar 02 | Europe
Irish hold key abortion vote
01 Mar 02 | Northern Ireland
Irish abortion referendum 'flawed'
02 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
New abortion referendum proposed
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