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(6/16/01 3:12 am)
Abortion Law in Ireland
Ireland is one of the few European countries where abortion is illegal. The Roe v. Wade decision in the USA led Ireland to adopt a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, for fear of similar judicial activism.

In recent years the constitutional ban on abortion has been coming under increasing attack. In a series of cases from 1992 onwards the Irish Supreme Court has attempted to interpret away the constitutional provisions. As a result of these cases the Irish government has produced various proposals to "reform" the law. Although none of these have been adopted, some would seriously undermine what is left of the ban on abortion.

In the last few months the abortion lobby has been becoming more and more vociferous. A Dutch ship recently arrived in Dublin offering to provide abortions to Irish women in international waters, though fortunately this offer was withdrawn when it became apparent that it would violate Dutch law. The ship has still been a major publicity exercise.

Unfortunately many political leaders in the Republic of Ireland are in favour of legalising abortion, but do not wish to be seen to take that stance because they know that the electorate is against it.

Meanwhile abortion activists have attempted to open a second front in Northern Ireland. Although Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, the province has maintained a ban on abortion in its legislation. The British Abortion Act of 1967 did not apply to Northern Ireland because of local opposition. The Northern Ireland Assembly voted to maintain the ban on abortion in 2000. Most of its political leaders (both Protestant and Catholic) are opposed to the legalisation of abortion. Despite this abortion activists recently launched a court case in Northern Ireland in an attempt to legalise abortion there. The first stage of the court case (essentially seeking permission to bring the case) was successful last week and the second stage (deciding the issues) is due to be heard in the autumn.

Clearly both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland need to stand together in maintaining their bans on abortion. Belfast and Dublin are only 100 miles apart. If one decides to legalise the practice it is almost certain that the other would soon follow.

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