The Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishments. The Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution, on the other hand, practically mandates them. That’s the legacy of 1983. That’s what happens when we let religious fundamentalists decide our future.
This Christmas, Ireland has just seen its latest – but certainly not its last – “right to life” horror story. This time the very meaning of life and the very meaning of death were twisted and reduced to the stuff of nightmares because doctors feared prosecution for murder if they allowed a brain-dead pregnant woman a natural death.
The Eighth Amendment was foisted on supine politicians in 1983 and voted for by 850,000 people. The youngest of those voters is in their fifties now. Fintan O’Toole wrote recently, and brilliantly, about the forces behind the Eighth Amendment. They were exactly who you think they were. Read O’Toole’s column here.
That amendment gave us Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, which states that mother and unborn have equal rights to life and the State will vindicate those rights where practicable. In effect, a woman, a sentient person, is reduced in value to being of the same worth under Irish law as a days-old cluster of cells within her.
I wrote about this in greater depth in my column in TheJournal.ie the other day:
Repeal the Eighth Amendment.