In 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Court issued a then-novel decision legalizing same-sex marriage. In response, opponents of same-sex marriage pursued a state constitutional amendment nullifying the court’s decision. To place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, however, they first had to go through the state legislature. One of the central arguments traditional marriage groups made to their legislators was a democratic one; the people should have a direct vote. LGBT citizens and their allies campaigned just as strongly, using the slogan “It’s wrong to vote on rights.” Ultimately, the LGBT groups carried the day, and the measure never appeared on the ballot.
“It’s wrong to vote on rights” has been on my mind a lot lately as Ireland prepares to vote on the abortion referendum tomorrow. The 8th amendment to the Irish constitution, in place since 1983, provides: “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.” The abortion lobby now asks Ireland to repeal the 8th amendment and strip the right to life from unborn children.
I won’t belabor all the arguments in favor of voting no. You know them well. The tens of thousands of people alive today because of the 8th amendment… Ireland’s stellar record on women’s health, enjoying a far lower maternal mortality rate than its pro-abortion neighbors… the threat repeal poses to people with disabilities… and above all, the principles that all human beings are equal and might does not make right… all of these points and many more have been aptly made by the many wonderful Irish activists working to preserve their nation’s pro-life legacy.
I can only affirm that it’s wrong to vote on rights. It’s fundamentally wrong to vote on fundamental rights like the right to life.
The fact that the referendum is happening at all is disgraceful. May Ireland redeem itself and soundly defeat this attack on human dignity. May Ireland save the 8th, and with it, countless lives.