A poll published in the Sunday Times has provided more good news for pro-life campaigners in Ireland this week as it revealed that support for loosening the restrictions on abortion are at their lowest level in more than two years.
While it is difficult to comment too broadly on these findings without having sight of the questions asked or methodology used, they do form part of a series of polls carried out by the same company for the Sunday Times and as such provides a good reflection of how the public feels about abortion.
The poll finds that support for abortion in the case of life-limiting conditions is at 70%. While this sounds high, it has fallen 6 percentage points since last month when the same question was asked, and 10 points since January 2013.
When it comes to the other so-called “hard cases” of abortion in rape or incest, the poll found similar support at 70%, but once again this reflected a fall of 7% since the last time this question was asked two years ago.
The question of introducing abortion in general circumstances similar to those available in Britain (where abortion is freely available on request) found even lower support. In that case, just 33% want abortion introduced.
These poll results will be very encouraging for pro-life supporters in Ireland. They show that what groups like the Pro Life Campaign have been saying for many years is true – there is no appetite among the public for the type of abortion regime which is prevalent in countries like the UK, where abortion is freely legal for the first six months of pregnancy, and legal up to birth if the unborn baby is diagnosed with any form of disability.
The findings for the “hard cases” of rape, incest and life-limiting conditions are also hopeful. The highest level of support was 80%, in January 2013 but it is notable that this coincided with the period following the death of Savita Halappanavar, one of the most contentious times ever in the Irish abortion debate.
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It was also one of the times when the facts surrounding abortion were blurred continually in the public arena as the Irish Government pushed through their plans to introduce the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, a law which allows for abortion during the full nine months of pregnancy where there is a threat of suicide – this despite the fact that there is not evidence to show that abortion treats suicide ideation.
Even though three independent reports were published in the aftermath of Savita’s death, showing that the ban on abortion in Ireland was not responsible, the Irish mainstream media did not report this and as a result, polls taken at the time reflected the mistaken belief that an abortion would have saved her life. For this reason, it is quite clear that the poll findings two years ago were heavily influenced by the hysteria of the public debate, and the support they claimed to show for abortion was inflated as a result.
As that hysteria subsides, we see polls that are gradually returning to the true position of the Irish public when it comes to abortion – a situation where every woman receives whatever treatment she needs while pregnant and where every effort is also made to preserve the life of her unborn child. The stark figure of just 33% support for an abortion regime like the UK is a sure sign to pro-life campaigners in Ireland that the public are behind them in their desire to safeguard and defend both born and unborn human life.