Church leaders reflect on referendum
Church leaders have been reacting to the 25th May referendum on the Eighth Amendment. The vote for repeal was carried by a two-thirds majority.
In a statement on his diocesan website, Archbishop Michael Jackson (Dublin and Glendalough) said: “Now that the result of the referendum is known, the legislators along with the medical profession have the responsibility of reflecting the decision … of the electorate … It is hoped that this will provide personal dignity and respect, along with care and compassion for the women of Ireland and for the people of Ireland.”
He also said: “A further hope will be that this outworking of democracy can initiate a real and lasting acknowledgement of the unborn in Irish society, an acknowledgement that needs to extend over many decades when stigmatisation has too often been the default setting of response.”
BEYOND THE EIGHTH
“We are now placed in a society which asks hard questions, dislikes hypocrisy and will offer attentive respect only to those who earn it through the integrity, depth and courage of their contributions to public discourse.” So said Bishop Michael Burrows in a statement after the referendum result on the Eighth Amendment. This is a place to which the Church and people of faith should always aspire to, without fear.
On the 25th May the people of Ireland made their will clear. 2,159,655 people cast their vote in Ireland’s referendum on the Eighth Amendment. This was equal to a 64.1% turnout. Out of that turnout, 1,429,981 people (66.4%) voted ‘Yes’ and 733,632 people (33.6%) voted ‘No’. Donegal was the only one of the 40 constituencies to vote ‘No’. The will of the electorate has been expressed. The question of abortion is something that people come to with deep convictions and passion. The result is one that many celebrate, whilst others respond with a deep sense of grief.
Understanding what happened in Ireland on 25th May will be the subject of many a study. Yes, it was a vote for or against the Eighth Amendment. Many will have been moved by the hard cases, such as instances where the life of a mother is at risk, fatal
foetal abnormality, or pregnancies resulting from rape. The human dilemmas faced by someone in those circumstances are hard to fully comprehend. Others will have felt that it was an issue for women to make the choice on.
Whatever the arguments that swayed people to vote ‘Yes’, there is also a sense of the tectonic plates of power and influence having shifted in Ireland. Others deeply fear for the safety of unborn children.
One of the fears of many was that proposed legislation could herald one of the most liberal abortion regimes in Europe. As the President, Revd Dr Laurence Graham, and the Lay Leader, Dr Fergus O’Ferrall, of the Methodist Church in Ireland said: “The democratic result which repeals the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution now places on the Oireachtas the responsibility of providing an opportunity for careful and sensitive legislation for safe, legal and rare terminations of pregnancy – we have always opposed what is called Abortion on demand.”
In what may be interpreted as a piece of dark irony, probably unintended, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is reported as saying: “Today I believe we have voted for the next generation.” Really?
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Letters to the editor
Eighth Amendment referendum
CLEARLY, THERE are Christians and others of good faith who voted on both sides in the recent referendum. My own pastoral experience in the UK led me to vote ‘No’. However, the referendum decision was made democratically and delivered a clear ‘Yes’ result, and it would be wrong to deny the validity of that.
Nevertheless, I would now like to appeal to all to ensure that this decision is not a slippery slope leading to further demands, such as abortion on demand up to 24
weeks (possibly even up to term); severe pressure, even sanction, against medical and administrative staff who have a conscientious objection to assisting in an abortion procedure; and – what is most worrying – an increasingly loose definition of foetal ‘abnormality’ that may be as simple as cleft palate, and could conceivably lead to pre-birth gender selection and issues of eugenics.
Furthermore, the pro-choice argument against the pro-life lobby – that after 35 years it is a
little late to start talking about increased care and compassion – is demonstrably unarguable.
Let us all then work to promote readily-available contraception; early, mandatory and continuous sex education from primary school onward; a non-judgmental support environment for women both pre and post- abortion; and increased support for parent and child health care in all circumstances.
Michael Cavanagh (Revd) Kenmare Co. Kerry
I BELIEVE the decision of the majority of the Republic of Ireland electorate to repeal the Eighth Amendment was yet another sign of the spiritual malaise in that country and a determination among many to deny God’s word.
However, I don’t naively subscribe to the over confidence of many from Northern Ireland that permissive abortion legislation could never be introduced here.
Given the right pressure and circumstances, the same thing is more than possible. The fallenness of humanity is no respecter of geographical boundary.
Sadly, with the potential destruction of at least a generation of Ireland’s unborn, all people will lose out. I was in Dublin airport last Thursday night as people from all over were flying back for the vote. The carnival atmosphere was deeply disturbing. I have heard
all the arguments about what was achieved and the freedom that women in particular now have.
It is true, so many women have been treated deplorably over the years. But I genuinely wonder, ultimately, what sort of freedom can this decision ever bring?
Many people within the Church of Ireland bravely spoke out on this issue, but what disturbed me most at this year’s General Synod was the underlying assumption that our denomination could overall be neutral on such a crucial vote – a vote about life itself.
It just does not make sense, but with Gospel hope I know that the Lord will heal the hearts of his people and draw close to those most hurting at this outcome
Alastair Donaldson (Revd) Derrylin
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