The 8th Amendment ( or Article 40.3.3 of the Irish Constitution) was voted into the Constitution in 1983 and says:
‘The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.’
This means that abortion is illegal even where the pregnancy places a woman’s health at serious risk, in cases of rape or incest, or where the foetus is likely to die before or shortly after birth (i.e. in situations of ‘fatal foetal anomaly’). It means that providing or having an abortion is a serious crime, carrying a penalty of up to 14 years in prison.
The 8th Amendment further harms women by forcing them to travel abroad in order to access abortion services or to order illegal abortion pills online — without the care of their doctor, should they need it.
The 8th Amendment also prevents doctors from providing the full range of medical care to women who are pregnant. For example, a woman diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy may not be allowed to receive chemotherapy.
And the 8th Amendment restricts a pregnant woman’s right to agree and disagree with a medical treatment.
If we want to change our abortion law in any way at all, we must vote YES to change the Constitution first. Only by voting YES to remove the 8th amendment can we begin to change our laws and provide women with care from their own doctors here in Ireland.