Supreme Court reverses High Court determination on constitutional rights of the 'unborn'

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris has noted the clarity provided by the Supreme Court today in its ruling and has stated that he is considering the judgement and and will await the advice of the AG before bringing a memo to Cabinet with the final wording of the Referendum Bill shortly.

He said: "While I do not believe that the Eighth Amendment will be repealed regardless of today's decision, I do think that if the governments hostile, manipulative and aggressively pro-choice agenda is successfully perpetrated upon the people, then today may one be seen as the Irish equivalent of Roe V Wade".

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said they have been waiting on the court ruling to finalize the exact words of the ballot referendum.

The State has appealed that finding and during a hearing at the Four Courts in Dublin last month, its lawyers argued the only right the unborn has is the right to be born and all other constitutional rights, including the right to the care and company of a parent, take effect at birth.

Responding to the judgment, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said: "I welcome the clarity that this Supreme Court judgement provides regarding the status of the unborn within the constitution".

"For us as a society to now declare that any category of human being should have that right taken from them would be a shocking step".

It's after a Supreme Court ruling this morning found the only rights for the unborn in the constitution are confined to the 8th amendment.

Senator Noone said: "Today the Supreme Court made a landmark decision".

"I urge us all to accept the Court's judgment in good faith and move forward in a civilised and respectful manner, as has been the case for the most part so far".

Currently, terminations are only allowed when the life of the mother is at risk, including from suicide, and the maximum penalty for accessing an illegal abortion is 14 years in prison.

A referendum to change the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution has been mooted for Friday, May 25.

The proposed wording of the question may have had to change, the referendum be delayed and it could have resulted in further legal challenges.

The timescale is tight if the government still wants to hold a referendum in May as the cabinet will meet tomorrow to discuss the issue.

And Ailbhe Smyth, convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, added: "It is up to Government to officially set a date for the referendum on the 8th amendment and we look forward to having confirmation on that date in the very near future". In the face of a range of possible views about the unborn's legal position, it said the goal of Article 40.3.3. was "to remove uncertainty".

The judgment is set to smooth the path for the Government's planned referendum on Ireland's restrictive abortion laws this summer. And that we have a full day sitting on Friday to advance the legislation?

  • Stacy Allen