Supreme Court rules on Constitutional rights of the unborn

"I have agreed to that request and Cabinet will meet tomorrow at 11am to discuss the Bill and I think the Business Committee will meet after that meeting to determine how we will hopefully debate the bill tomorrow and possibly on Friday if necessary", he said. The Dáil is not due to sit on Friday but she is among a cohort of TD's calling for an extra day this week.

The High Court essentially found that the unborn child is entitled to the same constitutional protections as a child.

THE Supreme Court will hand down its judgment later today in a landmark case about the extent of the rights of unborn children.

The court emphatically and unanimously found the unborn's constitutional rights are confined to the right to life set out in the Eighth Amendment, otherwise known as Article 40.3.3.

Irish Health Minister Simon Harris said he now meant to bring forward the final wording on the referendum.

The issue of the rights of the unborn was brought to the fore in a case involving a Nigerian man who was facing deportation.

The Supreme Court concluded such judicial observations in pre-Eighth Amendment cases were not "decisions" of the courts and that, by 1983, the courts had not decided a right to life of the unborn existed and was guaranteed by the Constitution.

Speaking this morning the Minister said "this Bill will contain the wording to be put to the people in a referendum at the end of May".

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It was argued the effect of those observations was that an unborn child has a constitutionally protected right to life, that it is a rights holder under the Constitution and there was no basis for limiting its rights to a right to life.

"I look forward to engaging in the debate with my Oireachtas colleagues, and would again call on the Government to ensure it keeps to its timetable of a May referendum on the Eighth Amendment so that the maximum number of people will be available to vote on the issue, many for the first time".

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said the judgment clears the way to advance the referendum.

The Pro Life Campaign has said the ruling shows the importance of keeping this life-saving provision in the Constitution.

He said: "While I do not believe that the Eighth Amendment will be repealed regardless of today's decision, I do think that if the governments hostile, manipulative and aggressively pro-choice agenda is successfully perpetrated upon the people, then today may one be seen as the Irish equivalent of Roe V Wade".

The unanimous verdict from the 7 judges said the rights of the unborn in the constitution are confined to the right to life alone.

While several High Court judges have taken a similar approach in previous cases, the Supreme Court judgment is an important endorsement of that.

She said repealing the Eighth Amendment would "give carte blanche to future governments to extend abortion on demand later in pregnancy without any approval from the public".

  • Lawrence Cooper