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Ireland’s Citizen’s Assembly recommends constitutional amendment, authorising parliament to legislate for abortion

Ireland's Citizens' Assembly voted on April 22 that the controversial Eighth Amendment to the constitution which limits access to abortion should be amended.
Update April 24

A majority in the Citizen’s Assembly voted on April 23 to recommend to government that constitutional amendments and legislation be introduced to make abortion legal in Ireland “with no restriction as to reasons” to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

In a complex series of votes, 64% agreed that termination should be allowed without restriction as to reasons. 8% said there should be no regard to gestational age, while 48% said there should be no restriction up to 12 weeks and 44% said there should be no restriction up to 22 weeks.

All of the vote results are available here.

The recommendations will form the basis of a report to Ireland’s parliament by assembly chair Ms Justice Mary Laffoy in June.

Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly voted on April 22 to recommend that the Eighth Amendment to the constitution which limits access to abortion be amended.

Ireland’s highly restrictive abortion legislation has been controversial for some time. Termination of pregnancy is permitted only when there is a risk to the life of a pregnant woman. In every other circumstance it is a serious crime. Women often travel to the UK and mainland Europe to access abortion services.

The assembly voted against repealing Article 40.3.3 in Bunreacht na hÉireann, Ireland’s constitution, which was inserted by amendment in a referendum in 1983.

3° 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.

Article 40.3.3, Bunreacht na hÉireann

Later, members voted by 51 to 41 to replace Article 40.3.3 with a provision that explicitly authorizes the Oireachtas (parliament) to legislate for termination of pregnancy, and the rights of the pregnant woman and the foetus.

The vote to alter the Eighth Amendment is in line with recent opinion polls. In March, a poll published in The Irish Times showed just 16% of people believed the Eighth should be left unchanged.

The assembly has been meeting since November 2016 to consider the Eighth Amendment, and is voting via secret ballot on specific recommendations to make to the government. Final results are due at lunchtime on April 23.

The UN Human Rights Committee called on the government to reform Irish law, after a June 2016 ruling that it subjected a woman to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and violated her human rights.

The death in hospital from blood poisoning in 2012 of Savita Halappanavar reignited debate in the country. Halappanavar had demanded that her pregnancy be terminated because she believed her life was in danger but her request was turned down after medical staff said they detected a foetal heartbeat. She was 17 weeks pregnant and miscarrying when she fell ill.

A significant proportion of Ireland’s healthcare facilities are owned and administered by Catholic religious orders.


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