The High Court in Ireland has today denied the request of a number of applicants who were questioning the results of the recent abortion referendum.
Queries had been raised regarding alleged irregularities in how the referendum was run and how voters were registered. Complaints were made about statements from the Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, and Minister for Health, Simon Harris, who were both very vocal in pushing for the removal of the right to life of unborn babies from the Irish Constitution. It was also alleged that the Refendum Commission, which is the independent body set up to oversee referendums in Ireland, did not meet its statutory obligations to provide fair and accurate information in the guide it sent out to every household in Ireland, and also on its website.
The Court found that the applicants had not passed the test set out by the Referendum Act which states that a petition can only be brought before the Court if it has been shown that there is prima facie evidence of issues that will “materially” affect the referendum outcome. In the Court’s view, this test was not met and as a result the applicants were denied permission to bring their petition for a full hearing in the Court. A week has been given for an appeal to be brought to the Court.
The result will come as a disappointment to pro-life campaigners who were hoping that the Court’s finding would call a halt to the Irish Government’s plans to introduce abortion on demand in Ireland. Since the referendum result, Minister for Health Simon Harris has taken every opportunity to push forward his plan for liberalising abortion, even going so far to hope that he would be able to introduce the necessary legislation before the Irish Parliament rises for its summer recess.
While the challenges have not been accepted, they have succeeded to delaying the legislation. Recently Simon Harris was forced to admit that there was no hope of passing legislation before the summer recess as it can only be dealt with in the Irish Parliament once all court challenges to the result have been fully dealt with. For that reason, the challenges were a valuable delay to the introduction of legislation which will ultimately have the effect of ending babies’ lives and harming women throughout Ireland.
While the result of the referendum gave abortion campaigners reason to celebrate, the future of abortion legislation is Ireland is far from straightforward. Trouble is brewing for Simon Harris in several other areas of his ill-fated plans.
Doctors who opposed the referendum and insisting that they must be afforded a conscientious objection that is not watered down in any way. At the moment, doctors are told that they can refuse to take part in the abortion procedure themselves, but they must refer the woman in question on to another doctor who will do it instead. Essentially, this makes them complicit in the ending of the life of a baby and in a procedure that can very often have negative consequences for a woman.
There is no medical benefit to having an abortion so leaving aside conscience at all, doctors should not be required to act against their training and carry out abortions.
There is also a huge number of aspects to this legislation that were simply ignored by the Government during the referendum campaign. They might have been able to push on towards getting the vote they wanted then, but they can no longer refuse to address questions relating to foetal pain, what will happen to the baby’s remains after abortion, how will Ireland avoid the horror of babies born alive and left to die, something which has been a horrific feature of the international abortion experience. These, and many other areas, will be the grounds for debate in the next few months as Simon Harris fights to impose his abortion plan on Ireland.