Thu Mar 7, 2002 - 12:15 pm EST

DUBLIN, March 7, 2002 ( - The people of Ireland narrowly rejected the government’s abortion law, with a less than one per cent majority voting “no” yesterday in the referendum. As the final results came in this afternoon, less than 10,000 votes separated the two sides with over 1.2 million votes cast (49.58% voting “yes” and 50.42% voting “no”)

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern commented after the vote saying “I am disappointed but I am a democrat. I made a promise that I would bring it to the people and I think the proposal was an honest reflection” of a consultative process. Some pro-life critics charge however that the wording of the legislation, which erroneously defined pregnancy as beginning at implantation rather than conception, as well as other problematic aspects, made it a useless referendum.

The pro-life community was split on the vote. Dana Rosemary Scallon, a recognized pro-life leader in Ireland and a Member of the European Parliament said she believed the “no” vote was a victory for the unborn child. “I think it would be very, very wrong for anyone to assert that this No vote was because there was a call for more liberal abortion. If it [the amendment] had been worded in a way that was acceptable to pro-life people in this country, it would have been passed,” Ms Scallon told the Irish Times.

Justin Barrett, a spokesman for the Mother and Child Campaign, one of the Irish pro-life groups that campaigned for a “no” vote said: “What has happened here today is that radical pro-abortionists who want abortion on demand have naturally voted against this and the majority of our supporters. The pro-life people, have also voted No. What it shows is the vast majority of Irish people continue to be pro-life and many of them were frightened and bullied into voting Yes.”

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