NewsThu Jun 5, 2008 - 12:15 pm EST
Abortion Laws May be in the Balance as Ireland Prepares for European Treaty Referendum
By Hilary White
DUBLIN, June 5, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Irish Referendum Commission has declared that ratification of the new European Constitution, now being called the Lisbon Treaty, will not lead to the country being forced to legalize abortion. The Commission has been accused by groups promoting greater democracy in the EU of misrepresenting the facts.
The commission chairman Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill said Ireland would not be forced to end its prohibition on abortion if the treaty is passed as Article 43.3 of the Irish Constitution is protected under EU law. But other national leaders in the EU have not been confident that ratification of the Lisbon Treaty will not lead to radical changes in legislation pertaining to other similar moral matters. The President of Poland, one of three countries to maintain legal protections for the unborn, warned in March that ratification could mean that Poland will be forced to adopt same-sex "marriage" or similar concessions to the powerful homosexualist lobby at the EU.
Jens-Peter Bonde, President of the EU Democrats, and a Danish member of the two EU constitutional conventions, warned last week that the Referendum Committee was not telling the full story and that the Lisbon Treaty could well overpower the Irish constitution. "The Referendum Commission does not explain what differences there are between Lisbon and the rejected Constitution. It does not explain that that the Lisbon Treaty will give the constitution of the European Union primacy over the Irish constitution, as indicated in Declaration No 17 - which has been moved from the Constitution’s Article I-6," Bonde wrote.
While the Irish Catholic bishops have not endorsed either side, some Catholic lay organisations and individuals have warned that the Lisbon Treaty will usher in a new secularist state overseeing largely Catholic Ireland. An ad placed by one group in a Catholic newspaper this month called on the faithful to reject the Treaty saying it proposes a "new European identity based on radical secularism and atheistic philosophies".
Some pro-life people in Ireland maintain that ratification of the Treaty will result in Ireland being forced to relinquish its constitutional protections for the unborn. On April 16, the organisation Pro-Life Campaign issued a media release condemning pressure from the Council of Europe for Ireland to relax its abortion law. The Council of Europe, while not possessing legislative powers over the EU, is the oldest and most influential of the pan-European bodies.
In early May, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe demanded that its 47 member states "legalize abortion if they have not done so". Abortion remains illegal in the Republic of Ireland, one of the few countries in the European Union to retain meaningful restrictions. Although the Assembly’s resolution is non-binding on member states, it puts pressure on the Council of Europe to make abortion an unconditional "right". Such a resolution has a certain moral force, and can be used to pressure countries such as Ireland, Poland and Malta into establishing a "right to abortion."
As in Britain, the Lisbon Treaty was ratified by the Polish government without a referendum after securing an opt-out from the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. The treaty replaces the defunct EU constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005. In Britain, while the government repeatedly assured the public that there were substantial differences in the Lisbon Treaty from the original document MPs were unable to demonstrate more than minor points of difference. Despite a considerable public demand and pressure from the opposition Tories, the Labour government used this explanation to justify its refusal to give Britons a vote, despite election campaign promises of a referendum.
The Irish referendum is scheduled for June 12 and campaigning is strong on both sides, with all major political parties backing the Yes campaign. Meanwhile, support from the public is not so strong as Yes campaigners might wish. Although a recent poll showed the Yes voters at 41 per cent and the No voters at 33 per cent, the lead has been narrowing and may be deceptive. As the Daily Telegraph’s Gordon Raynor pointed out, on the eve of the 2001 referendum on the Nice Treaty, polls showed the Yes campaign was polling well over 50 per cent. The next day, the Irish public resoundingly voted the former treaty down.
Almost all the European Union member states, including Britain, have passed the revised EU constitution through parliament without a public referendum. But Ireland alone has a constitutional obligation to put the matter to a public vote. According to the EU’s own rules, the 287-page constitution must be passed unanimously by every member state.
The Lisbon Treaty includes provisions for the creation of a European superstate, including the creation of the office of European President and a pan-European armed forces.
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