AGREEING to hold a contentious referendum on abortion in the 1980s was one of former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald's greatest regrets, a minister says.

Dr FitzGerald's Fine Gael - Labour Party coalition put forward the 1983 referendum, the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.

Following a highly divisive referendum, Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution was amended to read: "The state acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right."

Junior minister Brian Hayes said the former Taoiseach acknowledged shortly before his death that the referendum was a mistake.

"Six weeks before Garret FitzGeralds's passing I had the opportunity to meet him for a very lengthy lunch and conversation. At the end of our discussion I asked Dr FitzGerald what were the issues he made mistakes on during his time in politics.

"He spoke honestly and eloquently about his deep regret in agreeing for demands for a constitutional referendum on this issue in the early 1980s.

"The issue became, as he described, entangled in party politics and in the fevered political atmosphere of the time where effectively we saw three general elections in 18 months."

SECOND OPINION: At last women who give birth in Irish hospitals may have at least one of their human rights respected and vindicated. The Report of the Expert group on the Judgment in A, B and C v Ireland says that legislation to regulate access to lawful termination of pregnancy in Ireland is “constitutionally, legally and procedurally sound”.

The State must “provide effective and accessible procedures to establish a woman’s right to an abortion as well as access to such treatment”.

Maternal mortality rates are often quoted by anti-abortion campaigners to show that new legislation is not needed because Ireland’s maternity services are among the best in the world. These rates are meaningless when used to support an anti-abortion stance.

A 2012 analysis of maternal mortality in European perinatal health surveillance systems, including Ireland, shows that current data are insufficient for comparison between countries, because the tiny numbers and statistical variability from year to year are difficult to interpret.

Read full article by JACKY JONES here
The Health Information and Quality Authority may have to establish a further investigation into how pregnant women who are getting increasingly ill are cared for in Irish hospitals, following its inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar.

The authority, which this afternoon published the terms of reference for its investigation into the death of the 31 year-old pregnant woman at Galway University Hospital last month, said if it emerged that there may be “serious risks” to any other woman in a similar situation in the future, it may recommend “further investigation or ..a new [one] “.

Full article by Kitty Holland here

Constitutional lawyers William Binchy (Pro-Life Amendment Campaign) and Mary Robinson (Anti-Amendment Campaign) debate the legal implications of the result of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution on a Today Tonight Referendum Results special, 8 September 1983.