- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The student-body president at an Irish university could be removed from office for removing information about how to access an abortion from a student handbook, Ireland’s The Independent newspaper reported Wednesday.

University College Dublin’s Students Union President Katie Ascough will learn her fate after a vote of the student body on Oct. 25 and 26, the paper said. Miss Ascough has taken leave pending the outcome of the vote, The Independent said.

The vote comes after a second petition drive to force the balloting, the earlier effort having been disqualified earlier this month, the newspaper reports.

Traditionally a socially conservative and devoutly Catholic country, the Republic of Ireland’s constitution offers strong protections for the rights of unborn children, although it likewise protects the right of women to travel out of country to obtain abortions and the right of women to access information about the legality of abortion in other jurisdictions.

It is that protection of the right of women to access information that has Miss Ascough’s critics claiming that her excuse for removing the information from the publication doesn’t hold much credence.

“By providing abortion information in this way, they are not advocating or promoting abortion,” Ivana Bacik, a senator belonging to the left-of-center Labour Party said, reported the U.K.’s The Guardian newspaper on Wednesday. “No students’ union has been prosecuted for any breach of the 1995 act as a result.”

Indeed, it was Ms. Bacik’s run-in with authorities in the late 1980s — over publishing abortion information in a student handbook — that paved the way for changes in Irish law to allow women rights to access abortion information, The Guardian explained.

Miss Ascough’s controversy comes as Ireland debates liberalizing its abortion laws. Voters will go to the polls in May 2018 on the question of repealing the constitutional language protecting the “right to life of the unborn.”

As The Guardian reported Friday, recent polling data show 70 percent of Irish voters would repeal that constitutional provision, but that most voters want some abortion restrictions in place, with only 24 percent favoring “legalising terminations in nearly all cases.”

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