Ireland Supreme Court rules on rights of unborn children

Kristopher Nichols
March 8, 2018

The Amendment in Ireland's constitution commits authorities to defend equally the right to life of a mother and an unborn child.

The Catholic Bishops of Ireland on Tuesday evening released a statement saying the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, "would leave unborn children at the mercy of whatever permissive abortion laws might be introduced in Ireland in the future".

A special meeting of the Irish cabinet will be held tomorrow to finalise the wording and date of the abortion referendum.

Taosieach Leo Varadkar wants to discuss the referendum in the Dail this Friday.

"Cabinet will meet tomorrow at 11 o'clock to hear his advice".

He said he also hopes the Dáil would sit on Friday, if necessary, to debate the Bill before the St Patrick's Day recess next week.

An important issue in the appeal arose from arguments by the family at the centre of the High Court case - a Nigerian man, his Irish partner and their child, who was unborn when the case was initiated - about observations by the courts before 1983 about the unborn.

They argued the essential question was whether an unborn child, outside Article 40.3.3, is a constitutional "cipher" or "nullity" whose existence and rights do not have to be given any recognition or weight whatever in assessing whether to revoke the deportation order.

However, the Supreme Court did uphold the High Court finding that the Minister for Justice is required to consider the prospective constitutional rights of an unborn child in cases where their non-Irish parent may be deported.

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The Health Minister Simon Harris is due to publish policy papers this week outlining how the government will legislate on abortion.

She tweeted: "I welcome the clarity offered by today's Supreme Court decision and look forward to continuing the process of putting the 8th amendment before the Irish people by way of referendum".

Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan TD said ...

The Supreme Court judges dismissed the State appeal of the High Court ruling, but not because it agreed with the lower court's position on the unborn.

The Pro-Life Campaign said the ruling highlighted the importance of keeping "this life-saving provision" in the Constitution.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said if the referendum backs a change to the constitution, the Government will table legislation that would allow for unrestricted abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

"The Court has made it clear that unborn babies, up to birth, would have no constitutional protection against the legislation that the Government intends to introduce".

Linda Kavanagh, spokesperson for the Abortion Rights Campaign, said: "The Supreme Court ruling today means that nothing now stands in the way of this referendum as promised by the Government".

While several High Court judges have taken a similar approach in previous cases, the Supreme Court judgment is an important endorsement of that.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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