The X Case and Abortion Legislation

23 Jul

Coming from an American perspective, seeing the way the abortion debate is playing out in Ireland is fairly strange. The Supreme Court case that made this a national issue was 20 years ago, and the issue has been too hot for any government to touch since. It’s an absurd state of affairs, when public opinion is so firmly on one side of an issue, and the government is unwilling to legislate on it.

We finally got some legislation passed in both houses of the Orieachtas as of this week, which legalizes abortion when the mother’s life is at risk including from suicide, but that doesn’t go as far as public opinion. The Red C poll below shows the overwhelming support for the government’s bill and a significant minority who would support access to on-demand abortion. In fact, a more recent poll showed that support for on-demand has risen to 39% in the period just before the vote in the Dáil.

It’s also interesting to see the direction of legislation in both the US and Ireland. In the US abortion was legalized in one fell swoop in Roe v Wade, and Republican legislatures have been tripping over themselves to restrict it as much as possible. Ireland is very much working in the other direction. The Supreme Court here mandated its legality in some cases, but it’s now an issue of getting the laws to catch up with public opinion, which supports much greater access to abortions.Red C Polling

This unwillingness to take action on women’s issues, or worse, clearly being on the wrong side of women’s issues, has been a staple of the Irish parliament basically since inception. It certainly isn’t a uniquely Irish phenomenon, but the 20 year gap between being told to take action by the Supreme Court, and actually doing something is particularly egregious.


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