The decision of the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) to campaign for abortion in the event of a referendum is a culmination of 15 years of activism by pro-abortion elements, a survey of recent annual meetings reveals.
As far back as 2001, when the Fianna Fáil-led government proposed a constitutional amendment to overturn the ‘X’ case, the NWCI carried out a consultation with members on the issue of abortion.
At this point, the NWCI said in an explanatory note: “NWCI has held a valid non consensus position on the substantive issue of abortion and promised that if/when a text or proposal was published it would then move to ascertain and express the views of its members on the proposal.”
By the following year, however, it was proposed at the group’s AGM that “the NWCI should lobby the government to address the issue of permitting women to choose to terminate pregnancies in Ireland in cases in which foetal abnormalities inconsistent with life outside the womb are diagnosed”.
This was followed by calls made – in 2002 - for the group to lobby for the repeal of the Regulation of Information (Services outside the State for Terminations of Pregnancies) Act 1995, which restricts the circumstances in which women may obtain information on abortion services.
By 2004, the group was debating “a pro-choice position on the issue of women’s rights to choose abortion in the first trimester and [lobbying] the government accordingly”.
Ultimately, in 2011, and “in line, with its pro-choice position, the NWCI strongly urge the Government to implement the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of ABC v Ireland without further delay by providing legal certainty on when a physician may carry out an abortion in Ireland”, and, in 2014, “in line with international human rights standards NWCI will support the campaign to decriminalise abortion in Ireland”.
Members of the NWCI – which is State-funded – include prominent pro-abortion groups, trade unions, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and Methodist Women of Ireland.