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Abortion vote a 'reaction' against Ireland's Catholic past, says ex-Presbyterian leader

Sat 26 May 2018
By Alex Williams

Exit polls suggesting people in Ireland want abortion laws to be liberalised indicate a "strong reaction" against the country's Catholic heritage, an ex-Presbyterian leader has said.

Very Rev Trevor Morrow, former moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland also said he was "sad but not surprised" by polling data which suggests widespread support for change. It was later confirmed the country had voted decisively to remove a bar in the constitution on abortions.

He told Premier: "The indications were that there was going to be a substantial number of people who would vote for repeal.

 

"I thought the difference would be probably about ten points but this is almost seismic, an extraordinary result."

Surveys by the national broadcast RTE and the Irish Times suggested 70-per-cent and 68-per-cent of voters respectively back relaxing the nation's relatively strict legislation governing terminations.

The Republic voted overwhelmingly in favour three years ago of legalising same-sex marriage.

Referring to Ireland's strong Catholic history, Very Rev Morrow continued: "You can tell by the response to the gay marriage referendum and again here you see it in this debate on abortion, there is a real strong reaction against what we have inherited from the past."

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A referendum held on Friday effectively asked voters whether to repeal or retain the state constitution's Eight Amendment - legislation which prohibits terminations unless a mother's life is at risk.

The Irish Government had indicated that it would follow any vote in favour of repeal by introducing more liberal abortion laws by the end of the year.

Ministers have pledged to allow women to end a pregnancy within the first twelve weeks, subject to medical advice and a cooling-off period. They also want terminations to be allowed between twelve and 24 weeks in exceptional circumstances.

Very Rev Morrow said he was concerned about ramifications the vote could have for doctors in Ireland who conscientiously object to referring women for an abortion.

He explained: "Many of them are saying they will not refer.

"Now, what position does that put them in legally in the state and in the practise of medicine? That's going to be a very contentious issue, I think."

Listen to Very Rev Trevor Morrow, former moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland speaking with Premier's Alex Williams:

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