Campaigners from both sides of the 8th amendment debate were out on the streets of Cork on Thursday.
The amendment, which enshrines the equal right to life of women and the unborn in the Irish Constitution, has long been divisive and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has committed to a referendum on the issue in 2018.
The commitment follows the recommendations of the Citizens Assembly to provide a provision in the Constitution for the Oireachtas to legislate on abortion. The Assembly also recommended that terminations should be lawful without restriction up to the 12th week of pregnancy.
Pro-life campaigners Youth Defence are holding a series of ‘Save the 8th’ roadshows at locations around the country and yesterday set up a stand and posters on Patrick Street for the afternoon.
“This is an annual event, it is our 27th year but this year there is more of an emphasis on it because our 8th amendment is in jeopardy, to say the least,” Becky Kealy of Youth Defence said. She said Irish people were horrified by the recommendations of the Citizens Assembly.
“If there was a referendum tomorrow there is no doubt the 8th amendment would be saved.” A group of about 15, mostly young, activists handed out leaflets to passersby. Youth Defence reported a positive reaction to their roadshows and said: “People actually thank you for giving them information and showing the reality of abortion.” The Cork Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment, who set up a manned stand several yards away from the Youth Defence roadshow said they were there to support anyone who was upset by the pro-life display.
“Our main aim is to be non-confrontational and to offer some support to people affected by these images,” spokeswoman Kathy D'Arcy said.
“Also to bear witness to the 12 women who have to leave this country everyday and travel because of the 8th amendment.” The pro-choice campaigners also reported a positive response from the public:
“We have loads of interaction from people who are angry about the 8th and want to support us.” While Ms Kealy rejected the the Citizen’s Assembly as ‘a farce, a smokescreen’, Ms Darcy said her group were keen to see the recommendations enacted.
“We think, as do Doctors for Choice, that those should be the minimum requirement put into eventual legislation. We think it should be between the woman and her healthcare practitioner.
“And we need the wording of the referendum to reflect full repeal of the Eighth amendment.”