abortion referendum in Ireland
IFPA and BPAS
Pro-Choice comment on the result of the referendum on
abortion held in Ireland in 6 March 2002, follows. For more
discussion on the background to the referendum read Abortion
in Ireland, with Audrey Simpson (fpaNI), legal consultant
Julie F. Kay, and Dr Eileen Fegan and Rachel Rebouche (Queen's
University Belfast Law School), and Abortion
Law and Politics Today (Ellie Lee, Tony O'Brien and Audrey
The Irish Family Planning Association deemed the result in
the referendum, through which the Irish Government's proposals
to amend the legislation on abortion were narrowly defeated,
'A Victory for Common Sense'. Its statement reads:
The Irish Family Planning Association has said that the rejection
of the Government's referendum on abortion was a victory for
common sense and it called for the immediate enactment of
legislation to take account of the risk of suicide as a basis
for legal abortion in Ireland.
"Despite the confusion, scare-mongering and deception
which has characterised the Government's campaign for a yes
vote, common sense has prevailed. Today's vote is a statement
by the Irish people that they want to move forward on the
issue of abortion," said Tony O'Brien, IFPA Chief Executive.
"The stories of the women at the centre of the abortion
debate won-out today. The Deirdre De Barra's of Ireland garnered
the sympathy and support of voters.
"It is our view that if the Irish people had been asked
to approve legal abortion in limited circumstances, such as
in cases of foetal abnormalities incompatible with life, rape
or incest, they would have given their approval. The campaign
for such legal abortions starts today.
"Meanwhile, the task of preventing crisis pregnancies
must become a priority for Government and service providers.
While the IFPA looks forward to working with the Crisis Pregnancy
Agency, we need more than an agency if we are to see a genuine
reduction in Irish abortions. Legislative and policy changes
are required and the Government is the only body which can
effect such change."
British Pregnancy Advisory Service, which provides abortion
care for many Irish women each year, made the following statement:
"BPAS sees almost 2,500 women who travel from Ireland
each year. We pride ourselves on providing these women and
all the women we see with a high standard of care. We cannot,
however deny that it would be far better for Irish women if
abortion was made available in Ireland.
Irish people should have the right to decide what happens
in their country, but the legislation should reflect what
Irish people really want. It is impossible to prevent abortion
by making it illegal. Making it illegal just causes Irish
women more anguish and anxiety. I find it difficult to believe
that the result of the referendum will truly reflect the population's
view on abortion because it was held in such confusing circumstances.
It must be confusing if both pro-choice and anti-abortion
groups are voting on the same side. We know many pro-choice
colleagues abstained from voting simply because they did not
feel there was an option they could vote for. Tragically,
in the 21st century they are still debating, what is, for
the majority of women worldwide, a basic healthcare need."
Ian H. Jones
Notes for editors
BPAS is the UK's largest independent abortion provider. It
provides abortion care for almost 50,000 women each year.
More information on BPAS is available at www.bpas.org