LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Ireland can expect “a very liberal abortion regime” if the country votes to repeal its constitutional protections for the unborn child on May 25, according to the Archbishop of Armagh.
Archbishop Eamon Martin, who is Primate of All Ireland, said in a May 19 statement “unborn children in Ireland will have absolutely no constitutional rights” if the country’s Eighth Amendment, which was passed in 1983, is repealed.
Ireland currently has some of the most robust protections for the unborn in the European Union, although most European abortion laws are more restrictive than those in the United States.
If repealed, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said his government would draft legislation to permit abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, although there would be nothing to prevent the legislature from passing more liberal laws.
“When you go inside the voting booth on 25 May, pause and think of two lives – the life of the mother and the life of her baby – two hearts beating; two lives which are both precious and deserving of compassion and protection,” Martin said, urging voters to reject the proposal.
The archbishop reminded the Irish people the Eighth Amendment recognizes the “equality of life of a mother and her unborn baby,” and said women’s lives “are precious, to be loved, valued and protected.”
But he said babies’ lives are also “precious, to be loved, valued and protected.”
Martin also said abortion is not a Catholic issue, but one of human dignity which is rooted in “reason as well as in faith,” and is a value for people of all faiths and none.
“In recent months we have been reminded about the miracle of life in the womb – how your heart started beating from around week five, or your unique fingerprint began to form only ten to twelve weeks after conception,” the archbishop said.
“That little unborn child who moves her fingers or kicks around in the ultrasound scan is the same baby that will be born and grow further through infancy to adolescence to adulthood to old age – all that is needed for that life to grow, is time, nourishment, love, and a chance to survive,” he continued.
The May 25 referendum comes as the Catholic Church is rapidly losing influence in the once staunchly Catholic country.
Revelations about clerical sexual abuse has left public confidence in the Church at its lowest level in the history of Ireland.
In 2015, Ireland held a referendum on same-sex marriage in which 62 percent of the voters backed changing the constitution to allow the practice.
Pope Francis will visit Ireland Aug. 25-26 for the World Meeting of Families, which is taking place in Dublin.
According to a poll published on May 17 by the Irish Times, 44 per cent of voters said they will vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment, while 32 percent said they will vote No. The Yes vote has declined by 10 points since late April, but the pro-life side still has a lot of ground to cover before May 25.