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A woman religious casts her ballot May 25 in Dublin as Ireland holds a referendum on its law on abortion. Voters went to the polls May 25 to decide whether to liberalize the country's abortion laws. (CNS photo/Alex Fraser, Reuters)A woman religious casts her ballot May 25 in Dublin as Ireland holds a referendum on its law on abortion. Voters went to the polls May 25 to decide whether to liberalize the country's abortion laws. (CNS photo/Alex Fraser, Reuters)

Voters in Ireland have opted to remove the right to life of the unborn from the country's constitution, paving the way for abortion on demand up to 12 weeks.

Results from the nationwide referendum showed that 66.4 percent of citizens opted to remove the Eighth Amendment from the constitution, while 33.6 percent voted to retain it. Turnout was 64.5 percent.

Voters inserted the original amendment in the constitution in 1983 by a margin of 2-1, and it "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."

That text will now be deleted and replaced with an article stating that "provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy."

Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick told Massgoers May 26 that the result "is deeply regrettable and chilling for those of us who voted 'no.'"

He said "the final result of the referendum is the will of the majority of the people, though not all the people."

"It is a vote, of course, that does not change our position. Our message is one of love: love for all, love for life, for those with us today, for those in the womb," he said.

Referring to Pope Francis' Aug. 25-26 visit, Bishop Leahy said: "In August, we will unite as a family, to renew that sense of family when the World Meeting of Families comes here. We have the privilege of Pope Francis coming, and today I cannot think of his visit being more timely: to come here and remind us of the importance of family, of the love we have of family, of the reality that, yes, families get bruised sometimes, but they should never be broken."

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said he would introduce legislation that would allow abortion on demand up to 12 weeks, up to 24 weeks on unspecified grounds for the health of the mother, and up to birth where the child is diagnosed with a life-limiting condition that means he or she may not live long after birth.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said he would introduce legislation that would allow abortion on demand up to 12 weeks.

An exit poll conducted by the Ireland's national broadcaster RTE asked voters what motivated them to opt for either "yes" or "no." Among "yes" voters, the most important issues were the right to choose (84 percent), the health or life of the woman (69 percent), and pregnancy as a result of rape (52 percent).

Among "no" voters, they cited the right to life of the unborn (76 percent), the right to live of those with Down syndrome or other disabilities (36 percent), and religious views (28 percent).

John McGuirk, spokesman for Save the Eighth, which campaigned for a "no" vote, described the outcome as "a tragedy of historic proportions."

"The Eighth Amendment did not create a right to life for the unborn child -- it merely acknowledged that such a right exists, has always existed and will always exist," he said, insisting that "a wrong does not become right simply because a majority support it."

"We are so proud of all of those who stood with us in this campaign -- our supporters, our donors, our families and our loved ones," he said. "This campaign took a huge personal toll on all of us who were involved, and we have been so grateful for their support."

"The Eighth Amendment did not create a right to life for the unborn child -- it merely acknowledged that such a right exists, has always existed and will always exist."

Insisting that pro-life campaigners will continue their efforts, McGuirk told Catholic News Service: "Shortly, legislation will be introduced that will allow babies to be killed in our country. We will oppose that legislation. If and when abortion clinics are opened in Ireland, because of the inability of the government to keep their promise about a (general-practitioner-led health) service, we will oppose that as well.

"Abortion was wrong yesterday. It remains wrong today. The constitution has changed, but the facts have not," he said.

Ruth Cullen of the LoveBoth campaign insisted that the organization will try to ensure that the Irish prime minister, or Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, is true to his pledge that the government will work to ensure that abortions are rare.

"We will hold the Taoiseach to his promise that repeal would only lead to abortion in very restrictive circumstances. He gave his word on this, now he must deliver on it. No doubt many people voted for repeal based on the Taoiseach's promises in this regard," she said.

Commenting on the campaign, Cullen said: "We are immensely proud and grateful to all our volunteers throughout the country who worked tirelessly over recent months to ensure unborn babies would not be deprived of legal protections.

"The campaign to protect unborn babies will endure," she said.

Eamonn Conway, a theologian at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, told Catholic News Service he was "greatly saddened" by the result. However, he pointed out that "the truth is that the Irish Constitution merely recognized the right to life that is antecedent to all law. This most fundamental of all human rights is not extinguished or diminished because our constitution no longer acknowledges it. What is diminished is our constitution," he said.

Conway said he believes "the task facing the Catholic Church now is to ensure that it makes every effort to accompany with the healing compassion of Christ everyone caught up in the tragic circumstances that surround an abortion ... from grieving parents to medical practitioners."

Archbishop Eamon Martin, primate of All-Ireland, was expected to address the referendum outcome during a homily at the country's national Marian shrine at Knock, County Mayo, May 27.

Editor's note: This story was updated with additional information on May 27.

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Tim Donovan
6 years ago

As a Catholic who is gay, I realize that many people regardless of how they view abortion would feel that I have no right to express an opinion on the subject. I'd be dishonest if I claimed that my believe in Church teaching and God as the Creator of life was entirely irrelevant to my opposition to the violence of legal abortion. I might note that even when I seriously doubted God's existence for several years many years in the past (I 'm now 56) but still tried to follow Catholic teachings and beliefs, and was active in various ways in the pro-life movement, that I believed that it was biology, not theology, that confirmed that a new human being began life at fertilization, with abortion therefore being the killing of a human being. My believe that abortion is the violent and inhumane solution to a woman's often difficult decision is shared by many people who favor the human rights violation of legal abortion. Faye Wattleton, a nurse who was President of Planned Parenthood from 1978-1992, admitted in a very honest interview with Ms. Magazine in 1997, "I think we have deluded ourselves into believing that people don't know that abortion is killing. So any pretense that abortion is not killing is a signal of our ambivalence, a signal that we cannot say yes, it kills a fetus." It's interesting that Ms. Wattleton's late mother was a Protestant minister. Before Planned Parenthood became the premier agency that killed well over 300,000 innocent unborn human beings each year (out of almost 1,000,000 abortions performed in our nation), in a 1963 pamphlet, "Planning Your Children for Health and Happiness," the organization correctly and honestly admitted, " An abortion kills the life of a baby after it has begun. " It should be remembered that while "fetus"is the correct medical term for an unborn human being at a certain age during his or her gestation, the term means "young one" in latin. I think it's only logical to hold that the young one of a pregnant woman is also a human being, and not?? a member of any other species. The late U. S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M. D., and brilliant physician who performed numerous corrective surgeries on disabled infants (remember that "neonate" is the correct medical term for an infant) at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, noted in one of his books that human life is a continuum from fertilization until death. Koop also was a devout United Presbyterian. I would recommend that anyone interested in a,compelling case against abortion from a biological perspective is a,book I read years ago, "Rites of Life: The Scientific Evidence for Life Before Birth" by Landrum Shettles, M. D. Although he was an obstetrician /gynecologist who opposes legal abortion based on scientific facts, he wasn't a Catholic, and in addition to teaching natural family planning, also prescribed contraception though he opposed abortive means of birth control. Dr. Shettles also wrote about several women with difficult pregnancies that he counseled on a compassionate manner, including describing his failure to persuade a pregnant woman not to abort her unborn human life based on the desire of her husband, not get own desire. I must admit that I know several women who've had abortions (as surely many people reading my remarks do as well). One was the older sister of a friend from years ago who at age 17 as a senior in high school ecame pregnant by my best friend at the time who was a 19 year old college student. While I certainly strongly disagreed with her violent choice, I didn't "hate" her (I've committed many acts that are seriously wrong). When my friend gave birth one month after graduation to a boy (and they were married in the Church nine months later) her sister (who later gave birth to a daughter) and me enjoyed spending time babysitting their son, and both of us got along well and continued to help care for my friends (eventual) four children. Although I apology for not being brief, I think I'm both staying in topic and being charitable. I did years ago assist with a pro-life shelter for pregnant women and their babies, as well as provide other services. I still occasionally give modest contributions to the pro-life shelter, as well as to 'Mom's House. " This is probably the most comprehensive of crisis pregnancy centers. "Mom's House " is a network of about six homes which provide free quality day care to single pregnant women so that they can complete their education. Fortunately, there are many hundreds of pro-life crisis pregnancy agencies nationwide that provide pregnant women and their babies with compassionate, practical assistance. I hope that pro-life women and men in Ireland also operate crisis pregnancy centers for pregnant women in need. There are,now more alternative -to -abortion agencies in the United States than Planned Parenthood clinics. Back to Planned Parenthood. (which according to Dr. Shettles in "Rites of Life" reversed it's opposition to legal abortion to favoring legal abortion beginning in the late 1960's due to sociological, not biological, reasons). Dr. Shettle s notes in his excellent book that he was a friend of Dr. Alan Guttmacher, an earlier President of Planned Parenthood. In his 1933 book, "Life in the Making," Dr. Guttmacher asserted, " We of today know that man begins life as an embryo within the body of the (pregnant) woman, and that the embryo is formed from the fusion of two single cells, the ovum and the soerm" (that is, at fertilization). Dr. Guttmacher remarked that this was "common knowledge ." Admittedly, some years later he reversed his position and favored the violence of legal abortion, and performed many abortions. I very well remember when Louise Brown, the first baby born by in-vitro fertilization ( popularly known as a "test tube baby) was born in England in 1978. That year, Dr. Robert Edwards, a physiologist who along with Dr. Steptoe developed the procedure, remarked after he saw Louise Brown, "Last time I saw the baby it was beautiful. It was beautiful then and still beautiful now." I know a physician very active in the pro-life movement who in the early. 1 980's founded the first crisis pregnancy centers in my Pennsylvania county. He and his wife (who gave birth after being raped and released the baby for adoption). gave shelter to. homeless pregnant women in their family's home. This loving couple also adopted a baby who was severely disabled who despite their constant care unfortunately died not long after birth. I worked in various capacities with disabled children and adults for over 25 years, and was a Special Education teacher for six years of children with brain damage, and/or severe physical disabilities and/or behavior disorders. Although being a teacher admittedly isn't the same as being a parent, as a teacher and uncle of three (now adult) nieces and a nephew, I believe that I experienced many of the joys and challenges of being a father. (In fact, one of my brain damaged students died as a young adult). I still keep in contact with the mother of one of my favorite students, Billy (who's now an adult) by sending him a Birthday card and Christmas card every year. Billy was my favorite "kid," and although like all children at times misbehaved, like any father I loved him despite at times being hit, or dealing with him throwing objects in my classroom and trying to injure other students. Billy despite being brain damaged was very capable in some respects, and much to my regret and sadness eventually went blind. Another excellent book I read was " Aborting America" by gynecologist Bernard Nathanson, M. D. He was a co-founder_of what is now NARAL Pro-choice America, and was an atheist of Jewish heritage. He was in the early 1970 's for about 18 months the medical director of a New York abortion clinic which at the time was the largest abortion clinic in the western world, and he performed 5,000 abortions. In his book, he described in great detail both the specious arguments for and against legal abortion. Based on biology (not religious belief as he was an atyeist) he believed that the unborn were human beings. However, he still favored legal abortion but with significant legal restrictions. He admitted that he and some other abortion ",rights" advocates deliberately greatly exaggerated the number of pregnant women who died from illegal abortions. Why? In order to convince lawmakers to change state laws. I absolutely agree that it's tragic when any woman dies from illegal abortion. But I think we should remember that over 30,000.Americans did every year from gun violence. I do support stringent gun control laws. An even greater number of Americans did from the use/abuse of illegal and even legal drugs such as fenatyl, a painkiller. Over the course of many years, Dr. Nathanson (who I heard give a very intelligent speech at the University of Delaware years ago) ceased performing abortions, and gradually went from being an atheist to an agnostic to converting to our faith. I might point out that there are many Americans of different faiths who oppose legal abortion. I certainly know this through many years attending the annual "March for Life" in Washington, D. C. to mark the 1973 Supreme Court's decisions Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. Among other people who I've seen at the rally are members of "Secular Pro-life," whose slogan is a play on words to a hymn, " For the biology textbook tells me so. " Another prominent pro-life advocate who opposes not only legal abortion but favored legal protection for disabled infants from infanticide was the late civil libertarian, free speech advocate and journalist with the liberal Village Voice Nat Hentoff. Like Dr. Nathanson, Hanford was (,and always remained) an atheist of Jewish heritage. He also was a former Board Member of the New York State American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Although I very much oppose the ACLU's extreme position in favor of the violence legal abortion for any reason, I strongly support their position against capital punishment. One of the speakers at the 25th anniversary of the March For Life was Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff in Roe who challenged the Texas law protecting innocent unborn human beings except in the rare cases to prevent the death of the mother. Ms. McCorvey never had an abortion, but released her child for adoption. McCorvey had an interesting history. For some time she had a lesbian relationship, wrote a book, "I Am Roe," admitted that she deceived doctors in an attempt to obtain an abortion by falsely claiming that her pregnancy was a result of rape. She also worked at an abortion clinic for some time. However, she was persuaded that abortion was wrong by the peaceful protests of pro-life men and women. In time, she became a Protestant , and eventually became a Catholic. Sandra Cano, the plaintiff in Roe v Bolton who challenged Georgia's law protecting the unborn under most circumstances, also never had an abortion, released her baby for adoption, and I believe that she asserted that she never wanted an abortion, but simply wanted assistance with her child or children. Because of the 1973 Supreme Court's Roe and Doe decisions, abortion has been legal for any reason up until the time when the unborn infant is viable. Ruth Cullen of Ireland's LoveGoth campaign may be sadly mistaken in her belief that the Irish Prime Minister will keep his pledge to pass and sign a bill to allow legal abortion in restrictive circumstances and keep abortion "rare." I have two reasons for seriously doubting the Prime Minister's pledge. First, as noted in the article, the intent of the government is to permit the violence of legal abortion up to 2 4_weeks of gestation for "no specified grounds for the health of the mother." I have a distinct feeling that the Irish government in its mistaken belief that they are supporting human rights, will simply follow our nation's extreme law under Doe v. Bolton that defines "health" so broadly that abortion up until the unborn infant is of 24_weeks gestation is legal. The author of Doe, whom I believe was Justice Harry Blackmun, defined "health" not only as the woman's physical health but her "emotional health, age, and familial situation." Clearly this permits abortion for any reason when and if the pregnant woman can find an abortion doctor willing to perform it. According the an investigative report some years ago in the Washington Post regarding late term or " partial birth abortions, " there are at least several thousand such abortions each year in and nation, and most aren't for reasons of the pregnant woman's physical health. Dr. Martin Haskell of Ohio, who developed the brutal "partial birth abortion" procedure, admitted in an interview some years ago (I believe with the Journal of the American Medical Association) that approximately 80% of the late abortions he performed were for "purely elective" reasons. Although most legal abortions are performed during the first trimester, there certainly are clinics and abortion doctors who perform partial birth abortions for virtually any reason. According to the National Review (May 1, 2006), some advocates of legal abortion including stories in the New York Times, USA Today, the New York Daily News as well as syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman falsely claimed that "anesthesia killed the fetus" before the partial birth abortion took place . Dr. Norig Ellison, president of the American Academy of Anesthesiologists who favors legal abortion, testified before the House of Representatives that it is "entirely innacurate" that anesthesia killed the unborn infant. Also, in September, 1996, Ruth Padawer, a reporter with the Bergen County Record in New Jersey, "disclosed that a local clinic performed 1,500 partial birth abortions per year. That was more than the abortion lobby and much of the media has claimed that took place nationwide. Also, later that same year, Ron Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, told American Medical News that he had "lied through (his) teeth" regarding partial birth abortions . "In truth, he said, the vast majority were performed on healthy mothers with healthy babies." I hope that legal scholars and political leaders in Ireland will learn an important lesson from a convincing book I read by Professor Mary Ann Glendon, " Rights Talk: The Impoverishment of Political Discourse. " She not only provides persuasive reasons why unborn human beings deserve legal protection (as well as sensible arguments regarding other important legal matters), but notes that more than a few legal scholars who favor legal abortion, such as prominent Harvard law Professor Lawrence Tribe, contend that the constitutional reasons provided for the Roe and Doe decisions were poorly reasoned. Yes, I'm both a man and gay. However, I believe that because one doesn't have a direct relationship regarding an important matter, that he or she still has the right to express an opinion that is valid. For instance, I've never served our nation in the military. However, I respect men and women who have. Senator John McCain of Arizona certainly is someone I greatly respect. McCain served in the navy during the Vietnam Conflict, and was tortured while held a prisoner. By the same taken, although men could be drafted into the military during the Vietnam Conflict, women were not. However, I still strongly believe that women had every right to peacefully demonstrate for an end to the war. Why? Because I believe anytime a matter of human rights is at issue, that people regardless of their characteristics have the right to express a political opinion. As someone who doesn't have any children, I think I still have every right to speak out regarding public education. Some senior citizens don't believe they should be obligated to support public education because they don't have any children in school. But I believe such people do have that obligation, since I think public education is a matter of the common good.

Denis Jackson
5 years 12 months ago

Tim , I wonder why you have written such a long comment ?

Denis Jackson
5 years 12 months ago

This was totally predictable as is the case globally .

So what is the way forward if mankind is to advance towards a civilised humane society?
The evolution of civised man can surely only happen if individuals decide to live in the Kingdom of God . Once a person lives in the Kingdom there is no need for any 10 commandments , laws , prolife vs pro choice , dogma etc ...because there is only One power and that power is God . The future lies in the shift in consciousness that man will make or not!

Gary Sullivan
5 years 12 months ago

The church in Ireland should accept a big share of responsibility for the referendum outcome. There is no better explanation than the death of Savita Halappanavar, though one might also mention the lost children of Tuam and the decades-long abuse of children and adolescents by predatory priests. While I accept and thank God that the church is trying very hard to move away from the sordid aspects of its past, it will be many years before it regains its moral authority. The best thing any of us can do now is stay out of politics and focus on repentance and our larger mission of feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, and working humbly to serve our lord.

John McAllister
5 years 12 months ago

I agree with you Gary. As you sow so also shall you reap and the sowing of wild oats by hypocrites has come home to roost.

Bruce Snowden
5 years 12 months ago

Ireland has lost its Catholic Faith bestowed by St. Patrick in the 5th Century. It profits nothing to gain the whole world, but lose one's soul. By voting in majority to allow execution of not-yet-born Irish children by approving abortion on demand, Ireland has lost its soul and have rendered to Satan what is Satan's and denied to God what is His, the giving of LIFE as He Wills.

Ireland needs a new "Saint Patrick" and maybe the Providence of God is preparing one for them, for the Church, in the person of the Servant of God, Fr. Patrick Peyton, C.S.C. Is there anyone who can honorably doubt that Father Peyton already resides in our heavenly Homeland? Maybe Holy Father Francis should dispense with the ordinary protocol of the canonization process and simply declare Fr, Patrick Peyton, the "new" St. Patrick for Ireland and the whole Church.

When I was assigned to St. John Baptist Church W. 31st Street, NYC years ago, I had the privilege of doing a favor for Fr, Peyton, who had stopped at the Friary Church overnight enroute to one of his International Rosary Crusades. In the interests of brevity in an already too long a posting, that's all I wish to say.

Tim O'Leary
5 years 12 months ago

Catholic Ireland is dead and gone
It's with the eighth in the grave
They'e chosen violence in the name of sexual freedom
Not against an invader, oppressor, or terrorist
But, against their own flesh and blood, their very children - the ultimate child abuse
1980 - Contraception
1995 - Divorce
2015 - Gay marriage
2018 - Abortion on Demand

Lisa Weber
5 years 12 months ago

This vote is not surprising. I find it noteworthy that slightly more than half of those who voted for repeal of the Eighth Amendment did so because of the possibility of pregnancy resulting from rape. Knowing that it is possible to become pregnant from rape kept me grateful for Roe vs. Wade during my reproductive years.

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