The referendum of The Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland

The referendum of The Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland

English

The Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland

In this case-study for the www.participedia.net project the “The Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland”, previously called bill no. 29 of 2018, will be described and scrutinized.

The thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland is an amendment to the constitution of Ireland which grants the Irish parliament, called the Oireachtas, the right to liberalise abortion law and legislate for abortion(Web Archive Constitution. 2018. CONSTITUTION OF IRELAND. [ONLINE]). “Most democratic processes are front-loaded in the sense that popular participation focuses on deciding a policy question as in a referendum”(Archon and Wright, 2003)

In the Explanatory memorandum of the “THIRTY-SIXTH AMENDMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION BILL 2018”(CONSTITUTION OF IRELAND. 2018. ​THIRTY-SIXTH AMENDMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION BILL 2018​.) it states that; “The Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018 proposes to substitute subsection 3° of Article 40.3.3° of the Constitution in both the Irish and English text with text which articulates clearly the principle that laws may be enacted by the Oireachtas providing for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.”.

The constitution previously stated that an abortion should only be permitted if there was a serious risk to the life of the mother, ruling out instances such as sexual assault, incest, fatal

Purpose

fetal abnormality, molestation, unwanted pregnancies and other aggravating circumstances (THE JOURNAL. 2018. ​Here's what the legislation could look like if the Eighth is repealed​) (BBC. 2015.​ Irish abortion referendum: Ireland overturns abortion ban​). The purpose of the proposal, also described as he Repeal of the Eighth Amendment (WIKIPEDIA. 2015. Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland)​, is thus to grant the women of Ireland further freedom in deciding on their own bodies and destinies.

History

The history behind the referendum dates back to 1983 when the constitution was amended to give the unborn the right to life and equal rights to the fetus and the woman, making abortion illegal unless the mother’s life is in danger. The thirty-sixth Amendment bill proposes to replace the previously mentioned Article 40.3.3° of the Constitution, that was also earlier amended in 1992 with the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth amendments.

The twelfth Amendment suggested that the possibility of the woman committing suicide was not hazard big enough to justify an abortion, and did not count as danger towards the life of the carrier, the phrasing was as follows; “It shall be unlawful to terminate the life of an unborn unless such termination is necessary to save the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother where there is an illness or disorder of the mother giving rise to a real and substantial risk to her life, not being a risk of self-destruction.”(Wagner, A, 2005 p.154). The Thirteenth Amendment wanted to regulate whether the constraint on abortion should as well constraint the freedom of travelling from Ireland and legally obtain a secure abortion, and argued that it should not. The phrasing was as follows; “This subsection shall not limit freedom to travel between the State and another state.”(​ ​Wagner, A, 2005 p.154).

The 2018 bill was presented by the Fine Gael minority coalition government, a centre-right liberal-conservative and Christian democratic political party (Hamman, K, 2010. p.1980) (Parties and elections. 2011. ​Parties and elections in Ireland)​, making them the originating entity. It was authorized through both cabinets on 27 March 2018(IRISH TIMES. 2015. Government can meet timeline to hold abortion referendum - Donohoe​. ), and the referendum was scheduled to 25 May 2018. The yes-side won by 66.4% of voters, repealing the Eighth Amendment, and once signed by the president it was formally legislated on 18 September 2018(RTE. 2015. ​Eighth Amendment repealed after bill signed into law​).

Funding

The funding of the campaign does not originate from a single entity, but could rather be described as a organisation of multiple organisations, international as well as non-governmental. Several umbrella groups were crucial for the funding, such as “Together for yes”- led by three main associations Women’s Council of Ireland, the Abortion Rights Campaign and the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment. “Together for yes” was further supported by 97 other organisations; welfare groups advocating for women, professional groups of professions such as medicals and scholars.(PR WEEK. 2015. Compassionate, credible, united; How "Yes" won the Irish abortion referendum)

Further funding for the campaign was raised by Amnesty International, with their campaign “Repeal the 8th”(Amnesty International. 2015. ​Repeal the 8th​.), The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA)(IFPA. 2015. Our Approach.), and The Coalition to repeal the 8th(Abortion Rights Campaign. 2015. ​Repeal the 8th)​, The Irish Council for Civil Liberties, The Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, et cetera.

“If democratic innovations simply replicate and reinforce the differential rates of participation witnessed in most other forms of political participation, then their legitimacy will be cast into doubt.” (Lijphart 1997). To maximize the legitimize the referendum,the Participant selection was directed towards the Irish population as a whole, with a total of 3,229,672 people alleged to vote an additional 118,389 people added by late registration by the closing date of 8 May 2018(Housing Gov. 2015. ​Electorate for each Constituency​.).

Results of the The Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland (Referendum. 2015. ​REFERENDUM RESULTS 1937 – 2018)

Participation & Results

Choice

Votes

Percent

Yes

1,429,981

66.40

No

723,632

33.60

Valid votes

2,153,613

99.72

Invalid votes, blank votes

6,042

0.28

Total votes

2,159,655

100.00

Registered voters and turnout

3,367,556

64.13

“For many potential critics and supporters, the most important question will be one of outcomes. /.../ One prime justification for relocating public power to these decentralized and deliberative groups is that they devise public action strategies and solutions that are superior to those of, say, command-and-control bureaucracies, by virtue of superior knowledge of local conditions, greater learning capacities, and improved accountability” (Archon and Wright,2003) This shows that the state of Ireland, by calling for a referendum wanted to gain accountability and justify the relocation of power. There were two sides in the campaigning in the democratic innovation(Smith, Graham. 2009), and are analyzed as follows;

During the campaign to repeal the 8th, the Yes-side was often criticized for being quiet from start, and not having great slogans and a strong message from start, and this was linked to thoughts about their success, and that they are in for a loss. The outcome though states otherwise, and the outcome of the vote was bigger than anyone had anticipated. The rather vague campaign from the Yes-side might with hindsight be seen as a reliable strategy, also from the side of the parliament being vague in the referendum details. This since one might argue that the debate in the United Kingdom June-16 that was for or against Brexit is a clear example of referendums where the question on “what exactly was in mind” leaves as an echo in the debates, and another factor of success tied to some degree of vagueness could be that some voters that were open for a certain degree of openness and liberalisation would withhold their stand if the proposal for abortion without restriction in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy exceeds their own ambitions of liberalisation. This is action below federal level,

Analysis

where the citizens are involved in shaping the outcome, but it still has a direct link to the governing(Smith, Graham. 2009).

In contrast to this, the side was against repealing the 8th was driving a campaign that some argued was outdated, since the campaign was directed to keep abortion illegal, neglecting the fact that abortion is in fact both accessible and legal in the majority of Europe, making the question of the referendum not “should abortion be an option?” because in fact abortion is an option, and every day 90 women travel to the United Kingdom to get abortions(Department of Health and Social Care. 2015.​Abortion Statistics, England and Wales: 2017.​). The other alternative is to illegally order abortion pills from online, which is not only a risk of imprisonment but also a great health hazard. Therefore the question regarding the referendum was rather “should abortion be safely implemented?”.

Issue ownership is a form of electoral campaigning that assumes that “for most voters, issues represent a choice between two sides. Issue opinions are characterized by two component: direction and intensity. Moreover, a key idea is that not all parties are judged equally strong on all issues: parties are evaluated more strongly on issues they stress more intensely” (Rabinowitz and Macdonald, 1989). Meaning that emphasizing the strongest parts of your own campaign and ignoring the strongest of the other parts is sometimes successful, but seemingly not in this case. The idea would be to fight the fight in the parts of your choosing where you are strongest, and the side was against repealing the 8th worked with framing the campaign with the message that the unborn child is a human from the first conception, and fighting for the rights of the unborn.

This not only shows a seismic shift, but can also be linked to rising liberalisation in the genders. When voting to put the 8th in the constitution in 1983, the less liberal gender was the female as 75% of women compared with 62% of men voted to insert the ‘pro-life’ amendment(Referendum. 2015. ​REFERENDUM RESULTS 1937 – 2018)​. The situation was the same in 1992 referendums for abortion, where men were still more prominently liberal. Men were more in favour of constituting the right of travel than women were, this a phenomena discussed in Brendan Kennelly and Eilís Ward of NUIG book ​How Ireland Voted 1992​ (Folens and PSAI Press, 1992), where it is stated that women voted against in fear of the travelling increasing the likability of abortion, while men voted mainly in favour because of fear for the life of the mother. Further on, in the 2002 abortion referendum 31% of women, compared with 26% of men said to be completely against abortion whatever the circumstances be(Referendum. 2015. ​REFERENDUM RESULTS 1937 – 2018).​ This shows a surprising trend of men being more liberal, that is now declining. The 2015 referendum for same sex marriage 68% of women, compared with 57% of me said in forehand that they would vote in favour for(RTE. 2015. ​Polls indicate majority Yes vote for marriage referendum)​. In the referendum on The Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland according to RTE 72% of women voted for dropping the 8th amendment, whereas 66% of men voted for dropping the 8th amendment. This shows that for the past 35 years, a liberalisation has occurred where men voting against the 8th amendment has risen from 38% to 66%, and same goes for women where the vote against the 8th amendment has risen from 25% to 72%(RTE. 2015. ​Polls indicate majority Yes vote for marriage referendum).​

Looking at geographical patterns, it followed the familiar ideas. The liberal versus the conservative areas voting as anticipated, of the fourteen areas that were most strongly in

favour of dropping the 8th eleven were placed in Dublin and the other three nearby. On the other hand, the most conservative areas that were most strongly against were rural, with Donegal being the only constituency that had a majority of no-voters.

Other comparable factors from when voting whether to put the 8th in the constitution or not, is how the turnout has risen- 58% compared to 64%, and the rise in voting against- 33% to 66%. The liberalism has risen in Ireland which is discussed by Pat Lyon in the book ​Public Opinion, Politics and Society in Contemporary Ireland​ (Irish Academic Press, 2008), where he argues that the electorate being replaced by younger voters, and changes of the opinions of people can both explain the outcome of the referendum.

Word count: 1982

Structured data

Geo-coded location​; ​53.31139,-6.24570

Dates of operation​; 25th of May 2018

Policy area​; Abortion rights

Geographical scope​; Republic of Ireland

Number of participants​; ​3,367,556

Methods of selection, participation, deliberation and decision​; Referendum; including all with Irish citizenship.

Sponsoring organizations and costs;​ As previously mentioned; The funding of the campaign does not originate from a single entity, but could rather be described as a organisation of multiple organisations, international as well as non-governmental. Several umbrella groups were crucial for the funding.

Bibilography

Books

Fung, Archon and Erik Olin Wright (eds) (2003). Deepening Democracy: Institutional Innovations in Empowering Participatory Governance. Hartley JC 423 FUN

Gallager, M, 1993. How Ireland voted 1992. ​How Ireland voted 1992,​ [Online]. I, .. Available at: How Ireland voted 1992​ [Accessed 3 December 2018]

Hamman, K, 2010. The electoral and party system in Ireland. ​Parties, Elections, and Policy Reforms in Western Europe​, [Online]. I, 1980. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=5hXGBQAAQBAJ&pg=PA1980&redir_esc=y#v... f=false​ [Accessed 1 December 2018].

Lyons, P., 2018. ​Public Opinion, Politics and Society in Contemporary Ireland​. 1st ed. Irish Academic Press: Irish Academic Press.

Rabinowitz, George & Stuart E. Macdonald 1989. ‘A Directional Theory of Issue Voting’, American Political Science Review 83:93.121.

Smith, Graham. Democratic Innovations : Designing Institutions for Citizen Participation, Cambridge University Press, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/soton-ebooks/detail.action?docID=45....
Created from soton-ebooks on 2018-12-07 06:21:33.

Wagner, A, 2005. Contemporary of the issues of the Seismiotic of law. ​Cultural and symbolic analysis of Law in global context,​ [Online]. I, 154-155. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=EsPbBAAAQBAJ&pg=PA154&redir_esc=y#v=... false​ [Accessed 1 December 2018].

Websites

Amnesty International. 2015. ​Repeal the 8th​. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.amnesty.ie/issue/its-time-repeal-the-8th/​. [Accessed 5 December 2018].

BBC. 2015. ​Irish abortion referendum: Ireland overturns abortion ban​. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-44256152​. [Accessed 4 December 2018].

CONSTITUTION OF IRELAND. 2018. ​THIRTY-SIXTH AMENDMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION BILL 2018.​ [ONLINE] Available at: https://data.oireachtas.ie/ie/oireachtas/bill/2018/29/eng/memo/b2918-mem...​. [Accessed 4 December 2018]

Department of Health and Social Care. 2015. ​Abortion Statistics, England and Wales: 2017.​ [ONLINE] Available at:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploa... 183/2017_Abortion_Statistics_Commentary.pdf​. [Accessed 5 December 2018].

Housing Gov. 2015. ​Electorate for each Constituency​. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/electo...​. [Accessed 5 December 2018].

IFPA. 2015. Our Approach. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.ifpa.ie/advocacy/our-approach/. [Accessed 5 December 2018].
Abortion Rights Campaign. 2015. ​Repeal the 8th.​ [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.abortionrightscampaign.ie/tag/coalition-to-repeal-the-8th/​. [Accessed 5 December 2018]

IRISH TIMES. 2015. ​Government can meet timeline to hold abortion referendum - Donohoe​. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/abortion-referendum/government-... d-abortion-referendum-donohoe-1.3420911​. [Accessed 5 December 2018].

Irish politics forum. 2015. ​Analysis of the abortion (8th amendment) referendum, May 2018.​ [ONLINE] Available at: https://politicalreform.ie/2018/05/31/on-the-second-8th-amendment-refere...​. [Accessed 5 December 2018].

Parties and elections. 2011. ​Parties and elections in Ireland.​ [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.parties-and-elections.eu/ireland.html​. [Accessed 5 December 2018].

PR WEEK. 2015. ​Compassionate, credible, united; How "Yes" won the Irish abortion referendum​. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.prweek.com/article/1466096/compassionate-credible-united-yes... endum​. [Accessed 5 December 2018].

Referendum. 2015. ​REFERENDUM RESULTS 1937 – 2018​. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.referendum.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Referendum-Results-1...​. [Accessed 5 December 2018].

RTE. 2015. ​Eighth Amendment repealed after bill signed into law.​ [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.rte.ie/news/ireland/2018/0918/994438-cabinet/​. [Accessed 5 December 2018].

RTE. 2015. ​Exit poll indicates large majority vote to change abortion laws.​ [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.rte.ie/news/politics/2018/0526/966120-eighth-amendment-refer...​. [Accessed 5 December 2018].

RTE. 2015. ​Polls indicate majority Yes vote for marriage referendum.​ [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.rte.ie/news/2015/0516/701566-same-sex-marriage-referendum/​. [Accessed 1 December 2018].

THE JOURNAL. 2018. ​Here's what the legislation could look like if the Eighth is repealed.​ [ONLINE] Available at: ​https://www.thejournal.ie/eight-repeal-legislation-3925410-Mar2018/​. [Accessed 4 December 2018].

Web Archive Constitution. 2018. ​CONSTITUTION OF IRELAND.​ [ONLINE] Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20110721123409/http://www.constitution.ie/re... d.pdf​. [Accessed 4 December 2018].

WIKIPEDIA. 2015. ​Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland​. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirty-sixth_Amendment_of_the_Constitution...​. [Accessed 4 December 2018].

 

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