Rep. Chris Smith, the New Jersey Republican who is a leading proponent of U.S. engagement in international social conservative causes, is scheduled to headline a conference in Ireland tomorrow aimed at preserving the country’s laws criminalizing abortion.
The theme of the conference, organized by the Irish anti-abortion group Pro-Life Campaign, is the defense of Ireland’s Eighth Amendment, which introduced a constitutional ban on abortion. Abortion is outlawed in Ireland unless a pregnant woman’s life is in danger, but even in those cases, doctors can be hesitant to operate for fear of running afoul of the law. According to a recent Amnesty International report, at least 4,000 Irish women travel to other countries each year to obtain safe and legal abortion. Others have faced harrowing experiences where they are “essentially forced to wait until their condition deteriorates sufficiently in order for doctors to justify a medical intervention.”
A movement to repeal the Eighth Amendment has been growing since the 2012 death of Savita Halappanavar, a woman who was denied a life-saving abortion in an Irish hospital. Ireland’s recent vote to legalize marriage equality has encouraged those hoping to liberalize the country’s abortion laws.