Women and men of Ireland will have their say on abortion rights in May. It really is none of the business of the church or right wing groups. Let Ireland as a whole decide.

The Irish government has finally bitten the bullet and will hold a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution in May.

The Eighth Amendment gives the life of the child priority over the mother which led to a dreadful situation in October of 2012 when a young Indian woman, Savita Halappanavar, working as a dentist in Galway, was refused an abortion even though her fetus was not viable. She died an horrific death as a result.

The early opinion poll showed an almost two to one majority in favor of repealing the amendment, allowing abortion up to 12 weeks, and safeguarding the mother equally with the life of the fetus.

We’re teaming up with our #repealthe8th colleagues from around the world for #HomeToVote. We want as many eligible voters as possible to make the journey back to Ireland for the referendum. More details coming very soon. Stay tuned. #trustwomen #ldnirish4choice pic.twitter.com/w7WxVYWOte

— London-Irish ARC (@LdnIrishARC) January 30, 2018

Such early polls, however, are occurring before the real debate begins, and when it comes to abortion that debate is inevitably hostile, aggressive and full of unsubstantiated charges.

The pro-life side says it will use a Down syndrome baby as its poster child, stating that such a life could be aborted as a result of the new legislation.

The Catholic Church has also jumped into the fray, claiming euthanasia and disposing of the frail and elderly will be a direct consequence someday of the repeal if it happens.

Such charges are overheated to say the least. A group of distinguished gynecologists have stated that a Down syndrome baby cannot be identified before 12 weeks of pregnancy so the argument is moot.

As for euthanasia, the church is overplaying its hand, trying to be the high moral force it once was in Irish life.  It has totally lost that position, though, thanks to the sex abuse scandals and cover-ups that rocked the church.

The most compelling argument in favor of repeal is that Irish women have abortions anyway, over 3,000 a year in the U.K. and unknown numbers elsewhere.

It is surely better that the facility for such a procedure is available in their own country, and that people stop pretending that it doesn’t happen in Ireland.

There has been a strange fascination with women’s bodies on issues like birth control and abortion in recent years in the Irish state.

From our 40+ years experience supporting women by providing contraception and #crisispregnancy services, we can say with absolute certainty that NO woman ever chooses to have an abortion lightly. It's time to #TrustWomen. Time to #repealthe8th. pic.twitter.com/PqFrGaEOwA

— Dublin Well Woman (@dublinwellwoman) January 30, 2018

It’s hard to realize that for decades, contraception was illegal and an Irish prime minister, Charles Haughey, himself a well known Casanova, successfully passed a bill that made the possession of condoms available only through pharmacies with prescriptions.

The battle over the Eighth Amendment promises to be a huge standoff. With the passage of gay marriage in Ireland three years ago the young and the left in Ireland have become empowered.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church and many right wing groups realize this is the issue they must stand on, and their Waterloo if it is defeated.

Read more: Euthanasia for elderly and disabled next says bishop, if Ireland passes abortion vote

Such a standoff in the past has occurred at regular intervals over the issues of human sexuality. But we cannot forget the real victims in all of these cases are often children raped by family members or desperately poor women who have no standing in their communities.

There are moments in the history of a nation in which its people get the chance to make their world a better place.
The tireless work of activists has brought the Irish people this opportunity to claim their right to be the authors of their own destinies.
Seize it.#RepealThe8th pic.twitter.com/lWfJ3JgL6j

— Brendan Harkin (@brendanjharkin) January 29, 2018

Governments should be about a voice for the voiceless. And for those who cannot speak up for themselves.

The issue of abortion is an extremely tangled one with no clear options, other than the will of the mother to have or not have her child.

It is really none of the business of the church or right wing groups as to how a woman makes that decision. The repeal of the Eighth Amendment would be a positive move in modernizing Ireland and showing that the country is capable of dealing with difficult and complex issues without imploding.

Read more: Clear majority of Irish favor abortion rights up to 12 weeks

Free, safe, legal: The men and women of Ireland will have their voices heard on abortion in May.Abortion Rights Coalition