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DUBLIN, January 10, 2011 ( – Ireland’s Labour party has experienced a sudden 16 percent drop in support as the party kicks off its general election strategy in an attempt to take down Ireland’s coalition government, composed of Fianna Fáil and the Green Party. A poll conducted for the bookmakers Paddy Power shows a significant downward shift for Labour following the adoption of legalized abortion in their platform.

The country is in turmoil over the coalition government’s handling of the debt crisis and support for the government has never been lower; its mandate is set to expire and general elections are expected to be called for March.

Following the issuance of a decision last month by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Ireland’s abortion law, the Labour Party announced that if it were to form the next government, abortion would be made legal in cases of threat to the mother’s “health,” and not exclusively in cases in which the mother is in danger of death.

Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore told the country’s public radio broadcaster that the Irish parliament must implement legal abortion “where the life or health of the mother is at risk.” 

Gilmore told RTÉ, Ireland’s public radio broadcaster, “The court was very clear that Ireland was out of kilter [in terms of] human rights. I appreciate that it’s a difficult issue and it causes a great deal of division.”

However, calling for abortion to be legalized to protect women’s “health” is tantamount to calling for abortion-on-demand, said Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute.

“This would mean that Ireland would follow the British model – allowing for abortion for any reason at all, because a doctor will always find a ‘health’ reason to justify it,” Uí Bhriain said.

Gilmore’s position enjoys no popular support in Ireland, but the Labour Party’s rump of pro-abortion extremists would push hard for this type of legislation, she added.

“The immediate downward shift in support for Labour following their announcement of support for abortion legislation is significant.

“It’s obviously difficult to show exact causation, but a lot of Labour’s support is soft, and driven by anger at the government. They could easily lose a significant number of votes by championing something as horrific as abortion-on-demand.”

The Republic of Ireland voted in 1983 to make abortion illegal in a referendum that amended the constitution. Since then abortion activists have been chipping away at legal protections for the unborn. Most recently, in the notorious A.B.C. Case, three women, backed by international abortion lobbyists, took a complaint to the ECHR saying that their human rights had been violated by Ireland’s abortion ban.

The court ruled that, while Ireland’s constitutional prohibition on abortion was not in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights, the laws were a violation of one of the complainants’ right to privacy. A woman has “a right to an abortion” in Ireland where there was “a real and substantial risk” to her life, including a risk of suicide, the ruling said.

When the ECHR ruling was issued, Mary Harney, Minister for Health and Children since 2004, said that the government would now “have to legislate” on abortion since the Court ruling was a “binding judgment.”

Under current Irish law, a referendum is required to change the constitution and abortion is becoming increasingly unpopular. The Crisis Pregnancy Agency’s annual report for 2009 revealed that the number of women giving Irish addresses at UK abortion facilities dropped by a third between 2001 and 2009 to almost 4,500.