New survey: Majority opposed to abortion
Children's rights debate should include welfare of the unborn
Remarks by Dr Berry Kiely at the Pro-Life Campaign
Press Conference, Buswells Hotel, 2pm , Tuesday 19th February 2008
The Pro-Life Campaign today releases the findings of the latest survey assessing public opinion on a number of right-to-life issues.
The research was commissioned by the Pro-Life Campaign and conducted by Millward Brown IMS. Polling was carried out from 25 th October to 9 th November 2007 on a random sample of 908 people aged 18+ years. The sample was representative of the 18+ population.
Q1 reads as follows:
If the Government were to propose a constitutional amendment to prohibit abortion but allow the continuation of the existing practice of intervention to save a mother's life in accordance with Irish medical ethics, would you support such an amendment in a Referendum or not?
67% said they would support such an amendment; 14% said NO and 19% had no opinion or did not know. Of those who expressed an opinion, 82% would support such an amendment and 18% would not.
This finding is very encouraging and indicates strong public support for the pro-life position. Restoring legal protection to the unborn child is necessary following the 1992 Supreme Court decision in the X Case, which legalised abortion in potentially wide circumstances, even up to birth. While a referendum is necessary, it should only take place following a wide-ranging public discussion. The Pro-Life Campaign intends to contribute positively and respectfully to that discussion.
There is at present a public debate taking place on the welfare and rights of children. Important questions are raised in this debate which range very widely, covering children of all ages up to adulthood. Clearly the context is a broad one, going well beyond issues relating to the protection of the welfare and rights of unborn children. It is, however, useful to recall that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child bears in mind that, as indicated in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, the child "needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth".
In our democracy, we must strive to protect the dignity and equal worth of every child. At a time when Irish society is thinking hard about the welfare and rights of children, it is only appropriate that we make sure that our law is consistent with the protection that it gives to all children, born and unborn. This may be achieved in a variety of ways and there is no necessity for it to be done in a single, all-embracing constitutional amendment. What is necessary, however, in relation to unborn children is that they be given the constitutional protection for their dignity and worth that is at present denied them under our law.
What distinguishes this survey from a recent one showing support for abortion is that it clarifies the distinction between necessary medical treatments in pregnancy to save the mother's life and induced abortion where the unborn child's life is actually targeted. This is a crucial distinction. When treating a sick mother one hopes the child will survive; in abortion the sole aim of the procedure is the death of the child. When this distinction is taken into account which is in fact what happens in practice, the survey shows a consistent pro-life majority.
As the latest UN report on the safety of mothers during pregnancy found, of all 171 countries for which estimates are given, Ireland is the safest country in the world in which to be pregnant.  Indeed women are safer in Ireland when pregnant than in countries which allow abortion on demand.
Q2 on protection for the human embryo reads:
Currently, experimentation involving the destruction of human embryos does not take place in Ireland . Do you think the Dáil should enshrine the protection of the human embryo in law or not?
50% of respondents agreed the Dáil should legislate to protect the human embryo, 18% were opposed and 32% did not know or had no opinion. Of those who expressed an opinion 74% wanted the human embryo protected by law and 26% did not.
This is also a very encouraging result. It follows the publication of two recent studies from the US and Japan showing how patient-matched pluripotent stem cells were generated without recourse to unethical research that destroys human embryos. This opens an exciting new chapter in the stem cell debate, proving that ethics and science are not at odds with each other in the search for cures to chronic disease and disability.
There are also lessons here for the Government over the haste in which it backed EU funding of destructive research on living human embryos, without due consideration of the ethical issues involved.
Even though the abortion issue may sometimes be controversial, that is no reason to avoid debating it. The issue is far too important for that.
A number of other recent developments underline the need for an informed public discussion. The first is the growing recognition of the negative effects of abortion for women.  The second is the increasing public awareness of the humanity of the unborn child depicted in stunning new 4D ultrasound images of babies in utero .  These are just some of the changes that have taken place since 1992, which emphasise all the more the need for a calm and reasoned public discussion within the context of the ongoing debate on children's rights.
 Report on Maternal Mortality by World Health Organisation, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank, (2007).
 Fergusson DM, Horwood LJ, Ridder EM, Abortion in young women and subsequent mental health, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47 (2006), 1: 16 -24.
 Abortion: What We Need To Know , Dispatches Programme, Channel 4, (2007