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Leo Varadkar announces abortion referendum

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  • Registered Users Posts: 26,165 ✭✭✭✭Peregrinus


    No, I remain hesitant to put an array of policy options before the people, with the legislature and the executive basically saying "we'll do any of these! Just tell us what you want!" This would be to encourage precisely the kind of craven abdication of responsibility that got us into this mess in the first place.

    The political establishment has a duty to evaluate the options and put a definite proposal to us having considered (a) what they think we will accept, and (b) what they think is practicable, effective, etc and (c) what they are willing do do.

    The "pre-referendum" you speak of is just a huge and expensive opinion poll, but it's unlikely to produce materially more reliable information about what the public wants than (much cheaper) opinion polling conducted in the usual way employing stratified sampling and other statistical techniques. Making it universal and labelling it as a "non-binding preferendum" or the like so that the politicians could in fact regard themselves as bound by it, and so abdicate their own responsibilities here, would be a bad, bad idea.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 13,993 ✭✭✭✭recedite


    Peregrinus wrote: »
    .. so that the politicians could in fact regard themselves as bound by it, and so abdicate their own responsibilities here, would be a bad, bad idea.
    Bearing in mind that their ultimate responsibility is to represent the people, would they not be fulfilling their responsibilities?

    Sure, the politicians could avoid any blame or negative fallout attaching to themselves by simply respecting the result of a preferendum, but I don't see that as a problem, except maybe for the media pundits and newspaper headline writers.

    The added bonus is that it should be clear to ordinary people which way they should vote in the actual referendum. It would take the gamble out of it, so if somebody was pro-choice I assume they would realise that there was no point in voting No on the basis that better wording might come along under the next Taoiseach.
    Maybe some of those posting on this thread (who already expressed that kind of view) would care to comment on whether that is correct? If the wording was the result of a democratic preferendum, as opposed to the musings of Leo Varadkar, would you accept that it was your "once in a generation" chance to progress in the direction you want to go?


  • Registered Users Posts: 26,165 ✭✭✭✭Peregrinus


    recedite wrote: »
    Bearing in mind that their ultimate responsibility is to represent the people, would they not be fulfilling their responsibilities?
    No, it wouldn't. "Representing the people" is not simply a matter of finding out what is most popular and doing it. (Arguably, it's that approach that got us into this mess in the first place with the Eighth Amendment.) A legislator's job is to pass laws which serve the common good, which among other things means that the laws should be practicable and effective, and not simply popular.
    recedite wrote: »
    Sure, the politicians could avoid any blame or negative fallout attaching to themselves by simply respecting the result of a preferendum, but I don't see that as a problem, except maybe for the media pundits and newspaper headline writers.
    And for the women who may suffer (and occasionally die) under the abortion regime that secures popular preference, if it turns out to be as crapulous as the one that secured popular endorsement in the three referenda we've had so far on this subject. Up to now, we have criticised politicians for their failure to act to remedy these problems. You're proposing a system under which politicians no longer have any responsiblity to do so.

    Do you not see that as a problem? Or do you not at least see why others would?
    recedite wrote: »
    The added bonus is that it should be clear to ordinary people which way they should vote in the actual referendum. It would take the gamble out of it, so if somebody was pro-choice I assume they would realise that there was no point in voting No on the basis that better wording might come along under the next Taoiseach.
    Maybe some of those posting on this thread (who already expressed that kind of view) would care to comment on whether that is correct? If the wording was the result of a democratic preferendum, as opposed to the musings of Leo Varadkar, would you accept that it was your "once in a generation" chance to progress in the direction you want to go?
    The reason we keep revisiting this is that the abortion rules we have written into the Constitution in the past turn out to have unintended consequences. But there's no guarantee that whatever wins the preferendum, if written into the Constitution, won't also have unintended consequences, and therefore we'll have to revisit it again. There's therefore no reason to think that this system will result in a good-for-a-generation decision.


  • Registered Users Posts: 16,686 ✭✭✭✭Zubeneschamali


    I think gay marriage is an interesting example.

    In 2004 David Norris tabled a civil union bill in the Senate. In 2006, the Supreme Court found against Katherine Zappone, ruling that marriage in the Constitution was between a man and a woman. The Labour Party took up Civil Unions in 2006. The Greens got it into the Programme for Government in 2007. Cowen faced down maybe 30 conservative FF TDs, telling them that Civil Unions would not affect the Constitutional status of traditional marriage, and the law was passed in 2010.

    Activists promptly said "Thanks very much" and moved on to campaigning for an Amendment to allow for Same Sex Marriage. Opponents of civil unions like the Iona institute immediately moved from "Civil unions are the worst!" to "You already have wonderful civil unions, why should we give you marriage?". They did not for a moment try to continue opposing civil unions or roll them back.

    Nobody said "That struggle is over for a generation", or at least, no-one who was taken seriously.

    By the end of 2013, just 3 years later, the referendum was agreed, and it passed in 2015.

    I think this is how abortion is likely to go - even if the next constitutional change is some chickensh!t half-measure, success will just build momentum.

    Campaigners will take any step, however small, bank it, and keep campaigning. Whatever step is conceded, there will be no energy behind rolling it back, Iona & co. will have to step backwards and defend against the next move.

    And they will lose again.


  • Registered Users Posts: 16,094 ✭✭✭✭Loafing Oaf


    I think gay marriage is an interesting example.

    Or abortion itself: look at the surge in pro-choice activism since the passage of the POLDPA. Obviously the link is not entirely causal, but as Aodhan O'Riordain observed in that notorious bugged conversation, nothing could be done on the issue until X-case legislation was passed. It's almost served as the starting gun for a broader repeal the 8th campaign. I'm sure 'hard case' legislation will serve as another step on the road...


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  • Registered Users Posts: 7,037 ✭✭✭volchitsa


    I think there's another aspect too, which is true of gay marriage, but even more so for abortion, which is that once the silence is broken around the whole issue, it becomes necessary for those arguing for the status quo to actually defend that position. That's a new and uncomfortable position for traditionalists in Ireland.

    So IMO it's not that passing POLDP has led to more activism, but more that a number of events meant increasing numbers of women were moved to speak out about their own experiences, and this has led to more people discovering with shock just how barbaric the current law actually is.

    Oddly enough I think POLDP could have made things a lot harder for prochoice activists, if it had been a courageous law actually increasing access for the sorts of cases that most people are in agreement on. Instead it does the opposite, which shows that the legislators were out of touch and too much influenced by the most repressive parts of society. Or else that the 8th as it stands cannot be made to work humanely.

    For decades the official narrative was "Move along, nothing to see here" and most people pretty much accepted that because the pro life line has been so deeply embedded in society with education etc. Very little explanation or defence of real life cases was required because of the silence around them.

    That has changed, and that dam can't be rebuilt I think.


  • Registered Users Posts: 16,094 ✭✭✭✭Loafing Oaf


    volchitsa wrote: »
    I

    So IMO it's not that passing POLDP has led to more activism, but more that a number of events meant increasing numbers of women were moved to speak out about their own experiences, and this has led to more people discovering with shock just how barbaric the current law actually is.

    .

    On this same topic, Amnesty, the UN, European courts etc. have been calling out our abortion laws much more in the last few years than before. Now presumably those laws are no more egregious to them now than they were 10 or 20 years ago, so this must be to some extent a tactical move, facilitated by POLDP and other developments, i.e. there is a point to Amnesty campaigning for abortion law reform now because it might actually be achieved.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 910 ✭✭✭BlinkingLights


    I think the biggest issue that's changed is a realisation that a silent conservative majority simply does not exist. The state lived in fear of it it for a long time. Turns out it's either died off or it was juar a bogie man.


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,037 ✭✭✭volchitsa


    On this same topic, Amnesty, the UN, European courts etc. have been calling out our abortion laws much more in the last few years than before. Now presumably those laws are no more egregious to them now than they were 10 or 20 years ago, so this must be to some extent a tactical move, facilitated by POLDP and other developments, i.e. there is a point to Amnesty campaigning for abortion law reform now because it might actually be achieved.

    I suppose it's a bit of a chicken and egg situation, but the ECHR (and possibly the UN?) can only get involved when a case is taken by a citizen. Mindsets had to get to the point where that was a realistic possibility, first. That took years after the 8th amendment to even be possible. Plus, some of those court cases have themselves been in the pipelines for years. So to my mind it's about the media coverage they got recently, where in the past they would have been seen as not really suitable for public discussion.

    Basically IMO the main change has been that people are no longer being shamed into silence, and that has only really happened in the last few years. I'd identify Savita Halappanavar as the turning point, though in reality it was more of a cumulative effect than that. But that death broke the dams I think.

    (Also it occurs to me that there has probably been a change in views of abortion everywhere, it didn't used to be seen as a human rights issue, but as a purely female concern. I think that has made it easier for people outside a country to feel able to criticize them for what is now seen as a human right to control over one's own body and not some odd thing that women want.)


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,913 ✭✭✭Absolam


    On this same topic, Amnesty, the UN, European courts etc. have been calling out our abortion laws much more in the last few years than before. Now presumably those laws are no more egregious to them now than they were 10 or 20 years ago, so this must be to some extent a tactical move, facilitated by POLDP and other developments, i.e. there is a point to Amnesty campaigning for abortion law reform now because it might actually be achieved.
    I think there's probably a couple of aspects to that. Firstly, organisations like Amnesty have, with the advent of social media and ubiquitous connectivity, a much broader reach than when they relied on print and news coverage to get their message out. So anyone with a vague interest in a particular message is now seeing much more of it moreso than that message in particular is getting more focus from the organisation. Secondly, Ireland's involvement in Europe has grown significantly, and Europe itself as a structure has also grown significantly. So the European courts haven't suddenly started focusing on specific rights issues; they've become a significant feature of the legal landscape for every European country (hence the prominence of the ECHR subject in Brexit discusssions). And the UNHRC has been pillorying jurisdictions with restrictive abortion regimes for as long as the membership has been composed of individuals from jurisdictions with liberal abortion regimes; no surprise there. I don't think many would dispute that their opinions in that regard consistently extend beyond the scope of the Treaty obligations member States have agreed to.

    I think the salient feature of all this is that people now have a great deal of information fed to them which is in line with their own biases, and that leads them to think that some things have a greater national/world significance than they necessarily do. Those obsessed with Trump think everyone is talking about Trump, gamers think all the news is about E3, Catholics think all the news is about the latest Papal pronouncement, etc etc. I suspect the truth is the information age is subtly making us all even more parochial in our information consumption, they're just virtual parishes now.


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 13,993 ✭✭✭✭recedite


    I think gay marriage is an interesting example.

    In 2004 David Norris tabled a civil union bill in the Senate....
    Nobody said "That struggle is over for a generation", or at least, no-one who was taken seriously.

    By the end of 2013, just 3 years later, the referendum was agreed, and it passed in 2015.

    I think this is how abortion is likely to go -
    There was only ever one referendum on this issue. Politicians waited until they thought society was ready to pass that referendum before holding it.

    Abortion is a different thing altogether. There have been numerous referendums around the issue, so the people have already spoken. Very few politicians believe that a referendum in line with the recent Citizens Assembly recommendations would succeed, as yet. Which is why they are very unlikely to hold one making those proposals.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 13,993 ✭✭✭✭recedite


    I think the biggest issue that's changed is a realisation that a silent conservative majority simply does not exist. The state lived in fear of it it for a long time. Turns out it's either died off or it was juar a bogie man.
    Speaking of which, Des Hanafin got into the news for the last time during the week. Perhaps an omen?
    He was deeply conservative and was one of the key people behind the promotion of the Eighth Amendment. He also opposed the divorce referendum in 1995 and mounted an unsuccessful challenge in the Supreme Court to overturn it.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 13,993 ✭✭✭✭recedite


    Peregrinus wrote: »
    No, it wouldn't. "Representing the people" is not simply a matter of finding out what is most popular and doing it. (Arguably, it's that approach that got us into this mess in the first place with the Eighth Amendment.) A legislator's job is to pass laws which serve the common good, which among other things means that the laws should be practicable and effective, and not simply popular.
    Hmmm.. well I think a TD's primary job is to represent the people, and when making laws, to reflect the wishes of the people. In theory, this also means passing laws for the common good.

    I notice that your comments above are quite undemocratic. You seem to lament the fact that TD's hands have been tied by the Constitution and by the wishes of the people. What can I say. Maybe you are right, but if so, that is an elitist and an undemocratic position to take.
    Peregrinus wrote: »
    Up to now, we have criticised politicians for their failure to act to remedy these problems. You're proposing a system under which politicians no longer have any responsiblity to do so.

    Do you not see that as a problem? Or do you not at least see why others would?
    I haven't criticised TDs for for failing to make good abortion laws. Its not their remit. Their remit is to make laws within the Constitution, and in line with the peoples wishes, and in line with what they personally believe to be "for the common good" ... strictly in that order.
    They deserve criticism for taking 20 odd years to legislate for the x-case, but not for anything else. They had no other function in this, other than to propose another referendum whenever they felt it was time to take another gauge of public opinion.

    That's a constitutional democratic republic for you. It may not be a perfect system, but I haven't seen a better one anywhere else.


  • Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 28,792 Mod ✭✭✭✭oscarBravo


    recedite wrote: »
    There have been numerous referendums around the issue, so the people have already spoken.
    Ah, here. The last referendum was thirty six years ago. There are people now eligible to vote whose parents weren't born the last time the people spoke on this issue.
    recedite wrote: »
    I notice that your comments above are quite undemocratic. You seem to lament the fact that TD's hands have been tied by the Constitution and by the wishes of the people. What can I say. Maybe you are right, but if so, that is an elitist and an undemocratic position to take.
    Do we really need to explain the difference between a representative republic and a direct democracy all over again?


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 13,993 ✭✭✭✭recedite


    oscarBravo wrote: »
    Ah, here. The last referendum was thirty six years ago. There are people now eligible to vote whose parents weren't born the last time the people spoke on this issue.
    Far too long ago. But it does not alter the fact that the TD's hands are tied in terms of legislating on the issue, until/unless the people change the constitutional position (as already expressed by a previous generation).


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,913 ✭✭✭Absolam


    recedite wrote: »
    Far too long ago. But it does not alter the fact that the TD's hands are tied in terms of legislating on the issue, until/unless the people change the constitutional position (as already expressed by a previous generation).
    That's a large part of the point of Constitutional provisions; to prevent the legislature from acting contrary to the will of the people. It's a feature not a bug, as they say.


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,913 ✭✭✭Absolam


    oscarBravo wrote: »
    Ah, here. The last referendum was thirty six years ago. There are people now eligible to vote whose parents weren't born the last time the people spoke on this issue.
    To be fair; the last referendum on the subject was fifteen years ago; the twenty fifth amendment. The first referendum on the subject was almost thirty four years ago; the eight amendment. Anyone not born the first time the people spoke would have to have borne children at the age of fifteen for them to be eligible to vote now, anyone not born the last time the people spoke won't themselves be eligible to vote until 2020, never mind their children. I suspect there are very very few people now eligible to vote whose parents weren't born the last time the people spoke on this issue, almost certainly far far less of them than there are people who voted in the first, never mind the last, referendum on the subject.


  • Registered Users Posts: 19,615 ✭✭✭✭Muahahaha


    Good morning,

    Yes, it will but I'm having difficulty understanding how a 'no' vote indicates a pro-choice outcome to the referendum. Surely a no vote could also be from hard core pro-lifers who object to further liberalisation of termination law in Ireland?

    In short - what makes people think a no vote actually agitates for pro-choice change?

    Much thanks,
    solodeogloria

    I agree with this. In fact if you are pro-choice and the wording of the ref. is too restrictive then the way to vote would be to spoil your vote. If there are several hundred thousand spoiled votes that sends a clear message that people arent happy with what they are being asked to vote on. It is a much better option for the pro-choicer to spoil their vote than voting No- all voting No does is give even more legitimacy to the pro-life side, it doesnt achieve anything except maintaining the status quo and it allows the pro-life side to claim in the aftermath that they have majority support and the issue will be kicked to touch for another generation.


  • Registered Users Posts: 83 ✭✭Shadowstrife


    It never really occurred to me until this year, that the wording of it would be a huge issue.

    If I vote Yes to a poorly articulated referendum, will that hamper the pro-choice side in the long run?


  • Posts: 18,749 ✭✭✭✭ [Deleted User]


    Absolam wrote: »
    To be fair; the last referendum on the subject was fifteen years ago; the twenty fifth amendment.

    Which was a referendum to make things more restrictive.
    And it was rejected.
    I'm in my forties & I have never had a chance to vote on abortion or on the 8th amendment.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,897 ✭✭✭Means Of Escape


    JupiterKid wrote: »
    I'm not looking forward to the campaigns on both sides in the run up to the referendum. It will get ugly.

    Ugly ?
    Remember the oul dear shouting at those seeking divorce akin to Sodom and Gomorrah


  • Registered Users Posts: 16,686 ✭✭✭✭Zubeneschamali


    If I vote Yes to a poorly articulated referendum, will that hamper the pro-choice side in the long run?

    No.

    The people saying that it will be settled for a generation are dreaming. It won't be settled for longer than the victory party takes.


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,037 ✭✭✭volchitsa


    No.

    The people saying that it will be settled for a generation are dreaming. It won't be settled for longer than the victory party takes.
    Oh I don't think a poor result (by which I mean an amendment that leads to unworkable abortion law or a refusal to amend significantly) will settle the argument for longer than it takes the next awful case to come along.

    But the time for a new referendum, that I suspect could take years if not decades. Despite more cases piling up regularly. Much as now really.

    As you said though, it's noticeable that the conservative side, when it loses, inevitably drops its objections and moves on to man the barricades on the next last stand. It's obviously more about defending the status quo, whatever that may be, than the importance of whatever principle is currently being defended.


  • Registered Users Posts: 16,094 ✭✭✭✭Loafing Oaf


    It never really occurred to me until this year, that the wording of it would be a huge issue.

    If I vote Yes to a poorly articulated referendum, will that hamper the pro-choice side in the long run?

    No, indeed I'd argue it could be a case of 'the worse the better' for pro-choice (though of course not better for women affected by cumbersome legislation). If it becomes clear within a couple of years that legislation to allow rape victims access to abortion is unworkable, then the pressure for a broader liberalisation of abortion regulation could become irresistible. Whereas a referendum to introduce 'liberal abortion' next year would quite likely be defeated, meaning the issue is shelved for a decade or more...

    Dare I suggest our new taoiseach is machiavellian enough to recognise this...


  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]


    You want a serious look at yourself if you vote againest abortion in cases where the baby wont live any length/be still born

    But this is the problem with the referendum.

    They will authorise the extreme cases like above and add a pile of administrative obstacles and then put it to a referendum.

    Only after its passed will another sad case come to light when people will realise that what they voted was far too restrictive and we will need yet another referendum in 10 years.

    The only valid solution is to take it out of the constitution entirely and leave it up to normal legislation.


  • Registered Users Posts: 921 ✭✭✭benjamin d


    I think for this to actually go away for the government we have to provide legislation that is at least exactly equal to that of Britain. If our system leaves any possible connotation where someone has to travel to England for an abortion, abortion as an issue in Ireland will never be put to rest.

    Because at its heart the main aim for politicians here is for people to stop talking about abortion entirely. It's politically toxic and always will be.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 910 ✭✭✭BlinkingLights


    The English legislation is very badly constructed. We should be looking at something that's a lot more straight forward and honest.


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,913 ✭✭✭Absolam


    bubblypop wrote: »
    Which was a referendum to make things more restrictive. And it was rejected. I'm in my forties & I have never had a chance to vote on abortion or on the 8th amendment.
    Indeed, but it was the last referendum on the subject, it did directly affect the 8th amendment, and you did have a chance to vote on it. The forthcoming referendum will likely be the 36th Amendment and will almost certainly also affect the 8th, and you'll be voting on that, not the 8th.


  • Banned (with Prison Access) Posts: 9,005 ✭✭✭pilly


    The English legislation is very badly constructed. We should be looking at something that's a lot more straight forward and honest.


    In what way?


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  • Registered Users Posts: 6,913 ✭✭✭Absolam


    No, indeed I'd argue it could be a case of 'the worse the better' for pro-choice (though of course not better for women affected by cumbersome legislation). If it becomes clear within a couple of years that legislation to allow rape victims access to abortion is unworkable, then the pressure for a broader liberalisation of abortion regulation could become irresistible. Whereas a referendum to introduce 'liberal abortion' next year would quite likely be defeated, meaning the issue is shelved for a decade or more.
    Dare I suggest our new taoiseach is machiavellian enough to recognise this...
    I think it's already perfectly obvious to everyone that legislation to allow rape victims access to abortion is unworkable if it's based on their actually being rape victims rather than simply saying they are rape victims. I can't see any attempt being made to frame that idea either in the Constitution or legislation. Permitting abortion on the basis of a preceding criminal act is unworkable, as it takes to long to prove the criminal act. More likely potential liberalisation will be based on immediately demonstrable criteria such as ffa, where the right to life exists but cannot be vindicated by any action of the State.


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