DUBLIN, February 14, 2002 ( – As both the ‘yes’ and the ‘no’ campaigns were launched in Ireland yesterday to urge citizens for or against the March 6 abortion referendum, Irish Health Minister Michael Martin confirmed that a ‘yes’ vote would guarantee the availability of the abortifacient morning after pill. The referendum proposes a constitutional amendment to do away with the Irish Supreme Court ruling in the ‘X’ case which allowed abortion in cases where the mother threatens suicide, however it also falsely defines abortion as only after implantation rather than from fertilization.

The abortion referendum debate in Ireland is fraught with confusion which has led to a major split in the pro-life movement. Irish pro-life heroine and Member of the European Parliament, Dana Scanlon, came out against the referendum. Later the Irish Post reported that the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Trujillo, said during a conference in Rome that “The situation is delicate in Ireland but we expect that the Bishops will react against the proposals.” However, within days of that report, the Irish Bishops Conference came out “grudgingly” in favour of a ‘yes’ vote on the referendum.

Irish pro-life groups Galway for Life and the Pro-Life Campaign have come out strongly in favour of a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum. Mother and Child Campaign, Youth Defense, Human Life International Ireland, and the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) UK are against the proposals demanding a better referendum which does not threaten the lives of the youngest and smallest unborn children. Complicating matters, pro-abortion groups are urging a ‘no’ vote in the referendum and pushing pro-abortion legislation instead.

Mr Bertie Ahern, the Prime Minister, warned that a “no” vote in the referendum could lead to liberal abortion on demand. Speaking in the Dáil [the Irish lower house of parliament], Mr. Ahern claimed that the constitutional amendment was needed to avoid “the drift to abortion on demand”. Debate on the referendum in the Dáil became so heated that the session had to be adjourned. Dominic Baster, SPUC’s international secretary, pointed out the inconsistency and absurdity in claiming that a measure which would legalize the morning-after pill was pro-life, and accused Mr Ahern of blackmail in threatening liberal abortion if the referendum was lost.

Pro-life observers internationally are concerned about the precedent that would be set by the false definition of abortion in the Irish constitution if a ‘yes’ vote prevailed. Such a definition would allow for all abortifacient contraception but also permit destructive research on human embryos which is currently in high demand with stem cell research.

(with files from SPUC UK)

See media coverage of the Irish abortion referendum debate: