The wording of the 1983 “pro-life” amendment to the Constitution was hastily approved despite one attorney general labelling it a legal “time bomb” and another expressing doubts about its merits, newly released State papers show.
On November 2nd, 1982, two days before a vote of no confidence in the Dáil, which led to a general election the following month, the then Fianna Fáil government announced the wording of the anti-abortion amendment, which went on to be approved by the electorate.
This was despite the government being warned by attorney general Patrick Connolly SC that a “pro-life” amendment “might well have the effect of threatening the right of the mother” to have a life-saving operation.
Foreseeing some of the problems thrown up by the 1992 X case, Mr Connolly noted that, “whatever my personal views be”, a rape victim could not be exempted from any constitutional prohibition.
Nor, “in the current climate of what it is sought to achieve”, could the amendment exempt abortion where the mental health of a woman was at serious risk.
The Fianna Fáil government also had advice from the previous attorney general, Peter Sutherland, who argued that the amendment would create serious legal ambiguities.
So everywoman who may need an abortion is a ticking timebomb which may bring down the government.
Time to, Repeal the 8th.