Opinion poll shows weakness of Catholic bishops and anti-choice movement


Today's Irish Times IPSOS poll results show the marginalisation of the catholic hierarchy and the anti choice movement. Both bodies have thrown everything they can into opposing the proposed legislation for the X case and rolling back the growing public support for wide access to abortion. The poll also demonstrates just how far behind the people are the political class when it comes to the issue.

The questions and the percentages are below

1:Do you approve of the legislation? Yes - 75%, No - 14%.

2. Do you approve of abortion when the woman's life is at risk? Yes - 89%, No - 6%

3. Do you approve when foetus can't survive? Yes - 83%, No - 8%

4. Where rape or abuse? Yes - 81%, No - 10%

5. Risk to woman's health? Yes - 78%, No - 12%

6. Threat of suicide? Yes - 52%, No - 29%

7. Woman states in her best interest? Yes - 39%, No - 46%

It is clear that the legislation doesn't go as far as the public wants. The remarkable thing about the results though is the extreme decline in influence of the conservative forces in Irish society, the absolutist anti choice tendency is now tiny. I suspect as the anti choice movement became more dominated by Youth Defence and their provocative, aggressive and offensive tactics they succeeded only in alienating a large section of what is referred to as the middle ground. Similarly the Catholic church has seen its influence fall precipitously in the last two decades. When they issued one statement last week whilst it was the first item on the radio news bulletin I heard, the second item was about a clerical child rapist.  Nothing better demonstrated their irrelevance.

Rejecting the absolutist anti-abortion position has freed a great number of people to make up their own minds on the issue. In a context where many of the tens of thousands of Irish women are now prepared to speak openly about their abortion stories both in their peer groups and publicly, being an absolutist anti-choicer has become harder and also less likely.

The fact that the government has only been willing to propose very narrow legislation in this context with probably the greatest number of pro choice TDs in government ever and the fact that one coalition party is theoretically pro choice is testament to the deeply undemocratic nature of the political system.  Indeed the legislation which is draconian (14 years in prison for procuring or assisting) in reference to abortions administered outside the legislation, shows just how pathetic has been the capitulation of the Labour party and pro choice TDs in Fine Gael. 

For the pro choice movement the question now is surely how we move from a situation where there is obvious increasing support for more liberal abortion laws and yet no prospect of legislation or referendum to enable that?


Words: James McBarron