Last night I made my way back to Dublin for the evening, to participate in a debate organised jointly by the TCD Law Society and TCD Student’s Union on the legal implications of repeal of the 8th amendment (i.e. the provision of the Irish Constitution by which unborn life and the lives of pregnant women are deemed equal). The debate was a little unusual inasmuch as (a) it didn’t have a proposition per se, but was rather framed as a topic, and (b) it was undertaken in good spirit and rigour, and nobody seemed to lose his or her temper.
In as much as there was a proposition side (which we might vaguely describe as a side in favour of repeal of the 8th amendment and confident that the legal consequences would not lead to some form of disaster) it comprised of myself and Máiréad Enright (University of Kent). Máiréad and I have written together on the issue of Irish abortion law before, and we were also both in the group that drafted and published the Access to Abortion Bill last year. The opposition side (opposed to repeal of the 8th Amendment and to the legalisation of abortion in Ireland) comprised William Binchy and Gerry Whyte, both of Trinity Law School (Binchy is now emeritus there), and William Binchy is also legal advisor to the Pro Life Campaign. I don’t know if there was an exact head count taken, but I would imagine there was over 200 people in attendance and the debate went on for close to two hours.