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“It is in our humanitarian tradition as evangelical Christians to extend human rights to all groups, including the unborn”, says Evangelical Alliance Ireland Executive Director Nick Park.
Ireland's new Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, announced in his first speech as the country's leader last week that a referendum on its constitutional ban on abortion is planned for May or June 2018.
Ireland is one of the last European countries where abortion remains illegal in all cases, except those where the mother's life is clearly endangered.
The eighth amendment of Ireland's constitution holds that mothers and unborn children have an equal right to life. Therefore, for any changes to the laws regarding abortion, the country's constitution itself must be altered which, in Ireland, requires a popular vote.
The 8th amendment was decided by a referendum in 1983, when 67% of voters approved it, but it was broadened in a 1992 referendum, which made it legal for women to travel to another jurisdiction to have an abortion and for information about abortion services abroad to be provided to Irish citizens.
“THE WORDING OF THE REFERENDUM WILL BE CRUCIAL”
The referendum has not been a surprise for the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland (EAI).
“We have known this was coming for some time”, its Executive Director, Nick Park, told UK news website Christian Today in an interview.
“But what will be crucial is the wording of the actual referendum because surveys have shown that the majority of Irish people oppose abortion on demand, but want to see it legalised for limited circumstances”, he added.
67% AGAINST ABORTION ON REQUEST
According to a survey of Irish voters conducted by Ipsos MRBI in May, 82% agreed that abortion should be allowed in cases where there was a serious risk to a woman's health; 76% if the pregnancy was the result of rape, 72% for cases where a woman's mental health is at serious risk and 67% when there is a foetal abnormality likely to lead to death.
However, 67% were opposed to abortion on request and 68% believed abortion should not be legal for cases where a woman lacks financial or family support. Additionally, 58% also opposed abortion being permitted because the parents would struggle to financially support the child.
“The pro-abortion lobby will try to exploit this situation [where most Irish people believe that abortion should be permitted in certain situations but not available on request] by exploiting very emotive cases, and in doing so, remove the constitutional protection from all unborn children”, Park warned in the interview.
THE RIGHT OF THE UNBORN
The EAI spokesman said that the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland is not approaching this issue “as a purely religious or 'cultural war issue', but a human rights one”.
He noted that “the organisation's campaigns in anticipation of the referendum would centre on a positive affirmation of all life, including that of the unborn”.
'Throughout history, human rights have been violated when people try to say only certain groups deserve them. It is part of the general progression of history for these rights to be extended to previously excluded groups and it is in our humanitarian tradition as evangelical Christians to extend human rights to all groups, including the unborn”, Park concluded.
EAI PRO-LIFE PUBLICATIONS
The EAI has published two books on abortion from a human rights, rather than an explicitly Christian, perspective – Birth Equality and The Gospel & Human Rights.
The Gospel and Human Rights is “designed to help Christians see that protecting human life, both before and after birth, is consistent with previous Evangelical campaigns to protect Human Rights and promote biblical justice”, the EAI says.
“Birth Equality, is addressed to Christians and non-Christians alike. It uses a powerful personal story, and common-sense arguments, to advocate for the protection of the unborn”.
Around 20,000 people marched in Dublin on September 30 in support of Ireland's abortion laws being relaxed in the 2018 referendum. Protests were also held in London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Brussels.
To commemorate the 205,704 Irish and Northern Irish women who have travelled to Britain for an abortion since 1983, 205,704 chalk markings were made on the pavement outside the Irish Embassy in London.