Atheist Ireland Supports call to Repeal 8th Amendment Abortion Ban

Atheist Ireland supports calls for referendum to Repeal 8th Amendment (abortion ban) – section 40.3.3, to the Irish Constitution states:

“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.”

Atheist Ireland has always promoted ethical secularism, and we take positions on a number of ethical issues where state policy has had a religious influence, including LGBT rights, the right to die and abortion. This approach is consistent with Atheist Ireland’s constitution, and has been endorsed at two AGMs, as we have moved from simply highlighting the issues to making specific proposals for change.

Oireachtas Abortion Hearings:

In January 2013, Michael Nugent and Jane Donnelly were witnesses at the Irish parliamentary hearings on abortion law, along with representatives of six Irish religions. During this the following arguments were put forward by Atheist Ireland:

  1. That the 8th Amendment has constrained Ireland’s public ethics and must be removed so that appropriate, human rights based legislation can be introduced.
  2. That the current situation in Ireland with regards to access to abortion does not respect freedom of conscience. That as atheists we each form our own individual ethical beliefs, including on abortion, but one belief does unite us: we do not get our morality from gods. And so our laws should not be based on what other people believe that the creator of the universe is telling them to impose on us.
  3. Laws that are passed should be based on human rights and compassion, and on applying reason to empirical evidence, not on religious doctrines. That individual ethical decisions should be made on the basis of personal autonomy and individual conscience, while not infringing on the rights of others.
  4. That individual ethical decisions about pregnancy should be made by a pregnant woman in consultation with her medical team.
  5. That Ireland is obliged, under various international conventions, to respect the equal right of women to health and to physical and psychological integrity and the 8th Amendment is incompatible with our human rights obligations as it discriminates against women on the grounds of physical and mental health.
  6. That religious people have the right to believe in their gods, and to act in accordance with their own religious values, but not to impose their own religious values on pregnant women who do not share those religious values.

Videos of these presentations can be viewed here:Opening ContributionResponses to Questions

Empowering Women Through Secularism:

In July 2013 Atheist Ireland hosted an ‘Empowering Woman Through Secularism’ conference which included a panel on reproductive rights and Irish abortion law (Ailbhe SmythClare DalyRoss KellyAnthea McTiernanOphelia BensonQ&A).

Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment:

In April 2015 Atheist Ireland were invited to become members of the Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment. The Coalition, a broad alliance involving 23 different organisations, was established in September 2013 following the passing of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. The Coalition is a campaigning organisation that is working for a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment from the Irish constitution in order to respect and protect the lives, health and choices of women living in Ireland.

Through its membership of The Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment and its activities independent of it, Atheist Ireland is committed to campaigning firstly to secure a referendum to fully repeal the 8th Amendment and secondly to work on passing this referendum.

Ashling O'Brien

Regional Officer at Atheist Ireland. Contact me at regional@atheist.ie

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