Commentary

Repealing the 8th in Ireland: An Open Door to Abortion On-Demand Without Limit

By Nora Sullivan | September 9, 2016 | 1:25pm EDT
Irish pro-life protesters carry signs and march in favor of protecting the lives of the unborn. (AP Photo/Shawn Pogatchnik)

For the last several years, Ireland has been under siege.  The small country has been under near constant attack by pro-abortion activists who – supported by the essentially limitless funds of American mega donors such as George Soros as well as institutions like Amnesty International – have sought to overturn Ireland’s constitutional protection for the unborn..

Abortion is now at the forefront of the national dialogue, and Ireland is on the precipice of a massive referendum campaign to remove the 8th amendment of the constitution, the amendment which guarantees equal protection for both mother and child.  Abortion activists have tried especially hard to argue that it is necessary to repeal the 8th so that women whose babies are prenatally diagnosed with life-limiting conditions may choose to terminate.  Irrespective of the ethics of such an argument, the repeal of the 8th amendment would leave Ireland’s doors open to abortion on-demand without gestational limit.  

As it is in the United States, abortion is a contentious and emotional topic in Ireland. The matter is further complicated by the tremendous interest of outside groups.  As the Irish people begin to prepare themselves for the likelihood of a vote on the issue in the not-too-distant future, it is particularly important that the media’s coverage of the abortion issue be as fair and balanced as possible.

Unfortunately, this has been shown not to be the case – especially as it concerns the Irish Times, one of Ireland’s most prominent newspapers.  The Life Institute in Dublin recently released a report which shows that the newspaper has a clear pro-abortion bias.

The Life Institute report examined Irish Times articles on abortion for a three-year period (from 2013 through 2015). It found that 312 articles exhibited some form of bias.  Of these articles, 91 percent showed pro-abortion bias. Over the course of three years, the Irish Times published, on average, two pro-abortion articles a week.  It could be argued that, with this record, they have become more of a campaigner than a news agency.  It is especially worrying that such overwhelming bias was shown in news reporting, with some 98 percent of biased news articles    taking a position supportive of abortion.

One clear example of this bias is a June 22, 2013 article concerning the tragic death of a woman who travelled from Ireland and underwent an abortion in London. The woman suffered an internal tear as a result of the abortion, and bled to death in a taxi after being discharged from the clinic. The Irish Times article downplayed the role of the London abortion clinic and the trauma suffered by the woman, choosing instead to use her death to call for abortion to be legalized in Ireland.  The article ran to 572 words.  Just 48 words were given to a pro-life response, with 439 words given to abortion supporters.

Bias in the media is a serious problem that many recognize and few address.  Especially in the current culture (where it is difficult to escape the dizzying power of the internet, television, and radio), the media exert enormous influence.  The press has a serious social responsibility to avoid coloring the issues (especially one as sensitive and important as abortion and the human rights of the unborn) with their own biases.  It is essential for the good of the democratic process that the media remain as objective as possible.

The Irish people, along with their American counterparts, have long tolerated the abortion-friendly mainstream media.  However, this new Life Institute analysis raises serious questions about the conduct of the press in general and how their biases are influencing public opinion.  

Nora Sullivan is Research Director at the Life Institute in Dublin, Ireland and an Associate Scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Affairs from University College Dublin and has extensive experience in pro-life research and policy work.

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