DUBLIN (ChurchMilitant.com) - Thousands of pro-lifers gathered in Dublin, Ireland, on Saturday to "celebrate the 8th," referring to the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution asserting the unborn have the right to life.
The keynote speaker was abortion survivor Melissa Ohden, who was born alive during the botched abortion procedure and left to die. A nurse heard her crying and saved her life.
A representative of the Irish pro-life organization, the Pro Life Campaign, stated in an interview with an Irish news agency, "We're here to celebrate the eighth amendment … because it is responsible for saving the lives of thousands of people in this country."
The 8th amendment was added to the Irish Constitution in 1983 to reinforce an 1861 law called the Offenses Against the Person Act which forbade abortion. It was passed by a 67 percent majority in the Irish Parliament and enjoyed considerable support by Irish Catholic bishops.
The 1861 law condemned a woman "with intent to procure her own miscarriage" or other person who assists is guilty of a felony and condemned to "penal servitude" from three years to life, or to be imprisoned for up to two years with hard labor and/or solitary confinement.
The 8th amendment reads, "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."
Pro-life advocates are generally happy with the wording but critics argue it's not strong enough and still allows for abortion. For instance, abortion is illegal except "to protect the life of the mother," which critics say still values the mother's life over that of the child.
Abortion advocates have pushed through other amendments — the 12th amendment in 1992 and the 25th amendment in 2013 —allowing Irish women to travel to Great Britain to procure abortions.
Last year there was an effort to legalize abortion in cases of fetal abnormality but it was ruled unconstitutional.
Witnesses to Saturday's event said there was a notable presence of clergy were seen in the crowd with many families and young people.
Archbishop Eamon Martin attended a Rosary rally earlier in the day and spoke favorably of the gathering, commenting, "It takes real strength of character to hold to the fundamental right to life of both a mother and her unborn baby, and especially so in the face of pressure from those who wish to radically redefine Ireland's social agenda in the name of 'progression' and 'personal choice' above all else."