DUBLIN — As the Republic of Ireland prepares to vote in a referendum that could liberalize the country’s abortion laws, a recent poll has shown dwindling support for a change in the constitution.

According to a recent Sunday Times “Behavior and Attitudes” poll, support for abortions past three-months gestation fell to 43% from 51%, while opposition to changing the country’s abortion laws rose to 35% from 27%.

“These new figures represent a national 16% swing towards opposition in a two-week period,” Niamh Ui Bhriain, a spokeswoman for the pro-life campaign Savethe8th, said in a recent statement.

“This tallies with the experience of our campaign, which has been that the more people find out about the government’s extreme proposal, the more they reject it,” Ui Bhriain continued.

Ui Bhriain voiced her hope in the new numbers, but also noted that “all polls should be taken with a grain of salt.”

The proposed bill would repeal the country’s Eighth Amendment, which recognizes the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn child. Under current law, the practice of abortion in Ireland is illegal unless the mother’s life is endangered.

The Eighth Amendment was passed in Ireland in 1983, with upward of 67% voter approval. It reads, in part, “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.”

The new legislation is seeking to repeal the amendment, which would allow unrestricted access to abortion for the first three months of pregnancy.

Advocates of the referendum are also noticing the drop in support for the proposed law. Regina Doherty, the minister for employment affairs and social protection, said there is a lot of “work to be done” if they are to repeal the Eighth Amendment.  

“Standing right now, if nobody does anything, I don’t think this referendum will pass,” Doherty said, according to the Irish Examiner.

Health Minister Simon Harris said in a tweet that they were in for “a busy few weeks ahead on an extremely important issue.”  

Some reports have noted conflicting viewpoints among cabinet members, causing confusion in the discussion surrounding the amendment. However, Doherty denounced the speculation, saying, “I don’t think there is anybody creating problems or muddying the waters.”

The BBC reported that the Irish cabinet is set to release a final text of the referendum bill March 6.

The proposal will be brought to the people, who will vote on whether a “provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancies.” The formal referendum will take place in May.

In an effort to fight against the referendum, Savethe8th will be hosting a rally March 10 at the Dublin City Center at 2pm. This gathering will be the last major pro-life rally in an effort to “keep Ireland a safe place for mothers and babies” before the referendum vote in the spring.

“If this referendum is passed, there will be no constitutional protection for the unborn child at any stage of pregnancy,” said Ui Bhriain.

“We will campaign with all of our strength to defeat it, and we are going to win.”


Register staff updated this story.