19Nov The Irish Consititution can be adapted to solve abortion dilemma

Our country faces a dilemma about how we can best put into action the challenge in the constitution to acknowledge the right to life of mother and unborn child. Rather than see it as a dilemma, we can see it as a challenge.

My father and mother had a great sense of respect and fairness towards every human being. Remembering that, I offer for discussion some Principles towards a formula which may help solve the dilemma of abortion/termination of pregnancy in Ireland, with the possibility of cross-party support in the legislature, and of support by the various interested groups in society. The Principles may also be seen in the wider context of various international conventions on human rights and children’s’ rights.

Your feedback is invited. We ask that feedback be free from personal attacks, and that it be constructive rather than destructive. Perhaps you may wish just to say whether or not it seems to you that the Principles below can offer a workable basis to offer to the people of this country and to our legislature.


Preliminary considerations:

1. Those labelled “pro-life” tend to be seen as fearing that the life of the unborn child is devalued. Those labelled “pro-choice” tend to be seen as fearing that the life of the mother is devalued.

2. Article 40.3.3° of our Constitution reads:

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

3. In the suggestion below, the word “abortion” is avoided, since it is normally understood to involve bringing about purposefully the ending of the life of the unborn child.



To embrace as fully as possible all that the Constitution mandates, the following provisions may be considered:

1. Where a pregnant woman is judged medically to require treatment to save her life, but where the treatment is considered to endanger the life of the unborn child:

a. The required treatment is to be made available to the mother.

b. This treatment is not to be delayed in a way which would endanger the life of the mother.

c. Such treatment is to be administered in such a way which will, if at all possible, safeguard the life of the unborn child.

d. Where, because of the circumstances of the pregnancy, it is unlikely or impossible that the life of the child can be saved, the treatment is still to be made available to the mother.

e. If the treatment administered involves as a concomitant the termination of the pregnancy, the procedure chosen for termination of the pregnancy is to be that which will offer the best medical possibility for saving the life of the child.

f. In cases of such termination as a concomitant to the treatment, when the child is delivered and is living, all possible efforts are to be made to save the life of the child.

g. Where it proves impossible to save the life of the child, the body of the child is to be treated with the same respect and accorded the same rights as would be accorded a child in stillbirth or neo-natal death.

h. The child may be registered and named as in the case of stillbirth or neonatal death.

i. Any organ donation in such a case is to follow the normal procedures for organ donation; commercial exploitation is to be excluded.


2. In a pregnancy, where there is a diagnosis that the unborn child has a condition which is considered likely to lead to the death of the child before, during or around the time of the birth of the child:

a. All necessary support is to be provided to the parent(s), as would be the case if the child were already born and living with the condition which endangers its life, taking into consideration that medicine is not an exact science, that misdiagnosis can occur, and that even when the diagnosis is accurate, the estimation of the duration of survival of the child may not be certain.

b. Where the life of the mother is considered endangered by the circumstances, the provisions of article 1 apply.


Further points for consideration:

1. In life and death matters such as these, the Medical Council may consider whether it is most appropriate that the judgment that the treatment required may suitably be made by agreement of more than one suitably qualified medical professional.

2. The question of the place of the father of the child in the decisions should be taken into account.

3. Insofar as the language in the above suggestions lacks the required legal and medical precision, suitable editing will be required.