The people of Éire have spoken: the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution, which recognizes and protects the right to life for the unborn, must go. Earlier polls showed a nation divided, with a slight majority favoring repeal. But after a bitter battle – complete with accusations of censorship – a nigh two-thirds majority of 66.4% voted to join in with the vast majority of the European Union and allow voluntary abortions.
Ireland was a nation founded upon soundly Christian principles. Just look at the preamble to their Constitution:
In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,
We, the people of Éire,
Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial,
Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation,
And seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations,
Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution.”
Ireland was once a very conservative nation; now it more closely resembles an American progressive’s idea of Utopia. They allow voluntary abortion, same-sex marriage, and non-citizen voting. Perhaps it’s time they changed their preamble to fit.
How did this liberalization, this rapid decay of conservative Christian values, happen so quickly? The Irish Constitution lacks the necessary safeguards to protect the rights of the few against the tyranny of the majority.
Tyranny of the Majority
The Irish Constitution, also called Bunreacht na hÉireann, can be altered by a bill specified as “An Act to Amend the Constitution.” It must make it through both houses of the Oireachtas – that’s the Parliament of the Republic of Ireland – and then face a popular vote referendum. Though it must pass three votes, a simple majority in each will do the trick. If that seems a tad easy, that’s because it is.
The United States has the oldest currently used constitution in the world. Ratified in 1788, ours will be 230 years old this June 21. The U.S. Constitution still exists, in large part, due to the fact that it’s so difficult to modify. Of course amendments happen, but they are quite rare. This is not mere happenstance. Many of the Founding Fathers actually feared democracy. James Madison worried that certain factions of citizens, should they grow large enough, would either violate the rights of others or would harm the nation as a whole – perhaps even surrender the liberties of all to a popular despot. This fear was later named “the tyranny of the majority” by Alexis de Tocqueville, a phrase likely familiar to most today, and the reason it’s so difficult to amend the American constitution.
There are two ways to amend the U.S. Constitution. Two-thirds of the states can petition Congress to call a Constitutional Convention. Whatever comes of the Convention would then need to be ratified by three-quarters of the states. This has never actually happened. What has happened – albeit infrequently – is that each house of Congress approves an amendment by a two-thirds vote and three-quarters of the states then ratify it.
In the 227 years since the bill of rights became law of the land, over 10,000 amendments have been proposed. Congress has only sent 21 to the states, and only 16 of those were ratified. Though the 27th Amendment – the last, so far – wasn’t ratified until 1992, it exists outside the aforementioned 21 since it was sent to the states in 1789 with the Bill of Rights. A look back in time shows that as more states were added to the Union, fewer proposed amendments succeeded.
By contrast, the 81-year-old Irish Constitution has been amended far more than its American counterpart. The legalization of voluntary abortion makes 36.
Welcome to “Civilization”
In 2013, the United Nations reported that abortions were legal upon request in 58 of the 193 Member States. The World Health Organization estimates that there are between 40 and 50 million abortions per year. Ireland finally joins the majority of North America and all but four countries in the European Union in granting women the right to terminate their pregnancies as a matter of convenience – and the price of inclusion was just the lives of potentially millions who now will never be born. Welcome to “civilization,” Ireland.