largely in favour of legalising abortion
By Shaun Connolly,
Political Correspondent IRISH voters aged under
35 are overwhelmingly in favour of legalising abortion,
pointing to a major change in the constitution within
the next decade.
A dramatic split on the issue between older and
younger people is revealed in an Irish Examiner/Lansdowne
poll. If a referendum was to be held now, the pro-life
option would win by a margin of 47% to 36%.
However, pro-choice appears to be the wave of the
future, with those under 35 strongly in favour.
Almost half that age group, 49%, want women to be
able to access terminations in the Republic.
Just 32% of 18-24 year olds would oppose the move,
and that rises slightly to 35% among 25-34 year
olds. After that, the situation effectively reverses
itself with 48% against legalisation and 35% in
favour. Attitudes harden from then on with 56% of
50-64 year olds pro-life, as are 69% of over 65s.
Men and women are evenly split between the two camps.
The issue also provokes a close result in the more
affluent ABC1 social class where 43% are pro-choice
and 42% against. Pro-life attitudes dominated the
views of 'blue collar' households, with 48% pro-life
and 35% in favour of reform.
Labour's health spokeswoman Liz McManus said she
would expect to see termination legalised in limited
circumstances within the next 10 years, but not
"abortion on demand". "A decade is a long time in
an Ireland that has changed so dramatically in recent
years. There probably will be abortions carried
out here in limited circumstances," she said. "People
don't like the fact that, yet again, we are dumping
our problem on Britain. I am not surprised that
young people feel so strongly on the issue as they
are the ones directly affected by the situation.
"I think attitudes have changed enormously and people
now feel much freer to talk about what's happening.
This has been the hidden story for so many families,"
said the Labour deputy leader.
Fianna Fáil junior environment minister and pro-life
supporter, Batt O'Keeffe, said he was surprised
by the findings. "I would not have expected it to
be so strong in that age group, it does surprise
me. This is a pretty dramatic result and shows that
we are becoming a more liberated society," he said,
adding that he hoped the law would not change. Abortion
has long proved to be one of the most contentious
issues in Irish society.
The constitution was amended in 1983 to "protect
the right to life of the unborn". The situation
provoked national soul-searching in 1992 during
the 'X case' when a 14-year-old rape victim was
initially prevented by the High Court from travelling
to Britain for an abortion. In March 2002, a constitutional
amendment to resolve the position on travel and
information was narrowly rejected. Pro-choice groups
say more than 100,000 Irish women have travelled
to Britain for terminations since 1983.