Consequences of the 1983 Referendum

The anti-choice movement built on their victory in 1983 by using the constitution as a battering ram against organisations they politically opposed and to restrict access to contraception and counselling services. We feel that it is necessary to outline in detail some of the consequences of the Eighth amendment:

The Eighth Amendment, from it's introduction to the constitution, has been used to attack the rights of women in Ireland, and a number of fundamental freedoms applying to the population in general.

These were

(1) Attacks on the right to distribute and receive information.

(2) Attacks on the right to health care and personal privacy.

(3) Attacks on the right to freedom of expression and movement.

The intention of the 1983 amendment - in the eyes of it's supporters - was to introduce an absolute ban on abortion into the constitution with the aim of preventing the legislature or the courts from ever liberalising abortion on the grounds of personal privacy or the repeal of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act.

Once the 1983 amendment in the constitution the anti-abortion fundamentalists who had campaigned for it moved on to further restrict the civil and legal rights of Irish women. These activities included:

The victory of the anti-abortion groups in inserting article 40.3.3 into the constitution in 1983 emboldened them to extend their campaign against many other aspects of womens' rights to reproductive control of their bodies and lives. The lack of any legislation clarifying the legal meaning of article 40.3.3 meant that anti abortion groups adopted a strategy of defining and expanding it's application through the courts. There is no reason to believe that another anti-abortion constitutional amendment would not be exploited in this way by anti-choice groups, leading to further political and legal turmoil.

The Dublin Abortion Rights Group policy supporting the deletion of article 40.3.3 is based on an analysis of the negative effects which have flowed from the passage of the Eighth Amendment in 1983.



Part of the pages of the Dublin Abortion Rights Group