Anti-abortionists claim Irish law change will be 'licence to kill' unborn
One in five pregnancies could be terminated in the Republic next year if its strict abortion laws are changed after May's referendum, anti-abortion campaigners have claimed.
Activists urged voters to join a "rebellion" against the country's "elites" in voting 'no' as they launched their Save The Eighth campaign.
Young children and TDs were among a crowd gathered in Dublin at the event where speakers included medical professionals, students and mothers.
Citizens will be asked on May 25 whether they want to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution, a provision that makes abortion illegal in all but exceptional circumstances.
Voters will be asked whether they want to replace the Eighth Amendment, which gives the mother and unborn an equal right to life, with wording that hands responsibility for setting the country's abortion laws to politicians.
If the public votes to repeal the constitutional provision, the Irish government intends to table legislation that would permit women to abort within 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Activists described a 'yes' vote in May's referendum as a "horrible and tragic mistake" and claimed it would be a "licence to kill" the unborn, at the campaign launch at Dublin's Gresham hotel yesterday.
Caoimhe Lynch (20), from Killarney in Co Kerry, said her mother fell pregnant as a 23-year-old nursing student.
The NUI Galway arts student told the gathering: "It was suggested to her that she should have an abortion. Now imagine. Imagine if she had gone to England for that abortion.
"I wouldn't be able to experience all the amazing things life has offered me.
"The Eighth Amendment is so precious. It protects lives and that is priceless. A life is priceless.
"To think next year one in five babies might be aborted is unimaginable, but it's the horrifying reality."
Campaign leader Niamh Ui Bhriain urged people to turn out and vote to reject abortion and the "untrustworthy political class".
Ahead of the event, the Church of Ireland Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin said they could not accept the ethics of Irish government proposals on abortion.
Anglican Primate Archbishop Richard Clarke and Archbishop Michael Jackson urged church members to "think through the issues involved carefully".
The senior clerics referred to previous concern that the forthcoming referendum was becoming understood "as something akin to an opinion poll on the complex issue of abortion".
They said voters now faced "a stark decision".
The archbishops said that "unrestricted access to abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, or indeed at any stage, is not an ethical position we can accept".
"There is for Christians a very clear witness in the scriptures that all human life, including before physical birth, has a sacred dignity in the eyes of God," they added.
"We therefore ask church members to think through the issues involved carefully and with prayer, over these coming weeks."
In January two former Presbyterian Moderators, the Very Rev Norman Hamilton and the Very Rev Trevor Morrow, wrote a joint letter to TDs underlining that the Presbyterian Church holds a "strongly pro-life position, while recognising that there can be very exceptional circumstances where the termination of a pregnancy may be necessary".
Archbishop Eamon Martin, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, has consistently underlined his church's opposition to abortion and has asked Catholics to reject a repeal of the Eighth Amendment.