Irish Reject Abortion Referendum

Complex Proposal Loses by a Narrow Margin

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DUBLIN, Ireland, MARCH 7, 2002 ( Voters in Ireland narrowly rejected a change to the republic´s constitution on abortion.

Voters on Wednesday rejected the proposed amendment by a tight margin of 50.42% to 49.58% — a difference of about 10,000 votes in this nation of 3.8 million.

The amendment would have ruled out a mother´s threat of suicide being used as a reason for abortion. But the complexities of the proposal left people confused and even had pro-lifers in disagreement.

Abortion is illegal in the country except in special circumstances where the life of the mother is threatened.

Under the proposal, put forward by Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, it would have remained legal for doctors to carry out an abortion if it was necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman, BBC reported. However, under the proposal, the threat of suicide could not have been used as grounds for an abortion.

Speaking at Dublin Castle today, Ahern said his «honest and genuine attempt» to strengthen abortion laws «has been narrowly defeated.»

In Dublin and surrounding areas, home to one-third of the country´s people, a preliminary count showed that up to 80% of voters had rejected the proposal, BBC reported.

In the rural areas, initial results suggested a vote in favor of the further restrictions, but turnout was reported to have been low.

Voter turnout was estimated at less than 45% — not far above the 35% that voted in last year´s referendum on the European Union´s Nice Treaty.

Bad weather may have hurt turnout. Widespread confusion about the complexities of the referendum also likely had an impact.

The campaign split the pro-life camp. While the Catholic Church urged people to back the government proposal, others like the former Eurovision song contest winner Dana Rosemary Scallon argued that the referendum would not protect the unborn.

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