The report and recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on the Eighth Amendment have been published today.
The 83 page report was compiled from the views of 100 Irish citizens including Chairperson, Ms. Justice Mary Laffoy.
These findings will inform the basis of the future abortion referendum in 2018.
A key recommendation was for Ireland’s politicians to legislate on the issue “for the avoidance of doubt”.
Ms Laffoy said “It is essential that the Oireachtas understands the backdrop for these decisions and the context in which those recommendations were made in this very complex area of law.
“Put simply, most of the members voted that they wanted to remove Article 40.3.3° from the Constitution and for the avoidance of doubt to replace it with a provision in the Constitution, which would make it clear that termination of pregnancy, any rights of the unborn, and any rights of the pregnant woman are matters for the Oireachtas. In other words, it would be solely a matter for the Oireachtas to decide how to legislate on these issues.”
The Eighth Amendment is an article in the Irish Constitution brought in in 1983 concerning the country’s abortion laws.
The wording is as 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.”
The Final Report of the Citizens’ Assembly made the following recommendations:
- That Article 40.3.3° should not be retained in full. (87%)
- That Article 40.3.3° should be replaced or amended. (56%)
- That Article 40.3.3° should be replaced with a constitutional provision that explicitly authorises the Oireachtas to legislate to address termination of pregnancy, any rights of the unborn, and any rights of the pregnant woman. (57%)
The Assembly then made further recommendations about what should be included in this legislation. Specifically, the reasons, if any, for which termination of pregnancy should be lawful in Ireland, as well as any gestational limits that should apply were addressed.
64% of the Members recommended that the termination of pregnancy without restriction should be lawful.
The overwhelming majority was evenly divided between setting a cut-off date of 12 weeks and 22 weeks gestation age.
In addition, a majority of members recommended 12 reasons for which termination of pregnancy should be lawful in Ireland.
Those reasons are as follows:
• Real and substantial physical risk to the life of the woman (99%)
• Real and substantial risk to the life of the woman by suicide (95%)
• Serious risk to the physical health of the woman (93%)
• Serious risk to the mental health of the woman (90%)
• Serious risk to the health of the woman (91%)
• Risk to the physical health of the woman (79%)
• Risk to the mental health of the woman (78%)
• Risk to the health of the woman (78%)
• Pregnancy as result of rape (89%)
• The unborn child has a foetal abnormality that is likely to result in death before or
shortly after birth (89%)
• The unborn child has a significant foetal abnormality that is not likely to result in
death before or shortly after birth (80%)
• Socio-economic reasons (72%)
In an additional question on the ballot, 72% of members recommended that a distinction should not be drawn between the physical and mental health of the woman.
In feedback over the five meetings the members indicated that they also wanted to see wider policy issues, as distinct from just legal changes, reflected in the recommendations of the Assembly.
At the final weekend of the Assembly’s consideration of the Eighth Amendment, members were invited to write down their comments and suggestions on further recommendations. The five ancillary recommendations which the Chair included are:
- Improvements should be made in sexual health and relationship education, including the areas of contraception and consent, in primary and post-primary schools, colleges, youth clubs and other organisations involved in education and interactions with young people.
- Improved access to reproductive healthcare services should be available to all women – to include family planning services, contraception, perinatal hospice care and termination of pregnancy if required.
- All women should have access to the same standard of obstetrical care, including early scanning and testing. Services should be available to all women throughout the country irrespective of geographic location or socio-economic circumstances.
- Improvements should be made to counselling and support facilities for pregnant women both during pregnancy and, if necessary, following a termination of pregnancy, throughout the country.
- Further consideration should be given as to who will fund and carry out termination of pregnancy in Ireland.
The decriminalisation of abortion, including the use of the abortion pill; and recognition of and protection of female reproductive rights and autonomy; were also provided in the responses from the Members.
The report will now be referred for consideration to a Committee of both Houses which will in turn bring its conclusions to the Houses for debate.