Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1992 (Ireland)

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The Twelfth Amendment was a failed proposal to amend the Constitution of Ireland, to state that the risk of suicide should not be considered a sufficient reason to legally allow an abortion. It was rejected in a referendum on 25 November 1992.

The full title of the proposal was the Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1992. On the same day the "Thirteenth" and "Fourteenth Amendments" were approved. As these could not be renamed the number twelve has simply been 'skipped'. There has therefore officially been no successfully enacted "Twelfth Amendment" of the Irish constitution.

Proposed changes to the text[edit]

Proposed insertion of additional text to Article 40.3.3º:

It shall be unlawful to terminate the life of an unborn unless such termination is necessary to save the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother where there is an illness or disorder of the mother giving rise to a real and substantial risk to her life, not being a risk of self-destruction.

The subsection relating to abortion had originally been added with the Eighth Amendment in 1983. After the rejection of the Twelfth Amendment, and the approval of the Thirteenth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment, the full text of Article 40.3.3º read as the follows:

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.

This subsection shall not limit freedom to travel between the State and another state.

This subsection shall not limit freedom to obtain or make available, in the State, subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state.


The referendum in November 1992 was largely in response to Attorney General v. X (more commonly known as the "X case"), in which the state initially obtained an injunction preventing a 14-year-old girl who had become pregnant from rape was threatened with legal action for travelling to the England to obtain an abortion, but which was lifted as there was a threat to her life from suicide. It proposed that the possibility of suicide was not a sufficient threat to justify an abortion. The proposal was put to a referendum on 25 November 1992 but was rejected.

On the same day, the Thirteenth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment were approved by referendum. The former guaranteed freedom of travel abroad to obtain an abortion, and the latter, access to information with respect to the same issue.

In 2002 a second failed attempt was made to rule out the risk of suicide as grounds for an abortion. This was the proposed Twenty-fifth Amendment, which was also rejected in a referendum, but by a much narrower margin.


Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland Bill, 1992[1]
Choice Votes  %
Referendum failed No 1,079,297 65.35
Yes 572,177 34.65
Valid votes 1,651,474 95.28
Invalid or blank votes 81,835 4.72
Total votes 1,733,309 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 2,542,841 68.16

See also[edit]


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