By Sarah Lafen
Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe
DUBLIN, Ireland — Members of the Citizens’ Assembly in Ireland voted for a constitutional amendment that would mandate the Oireachtas to deal with the issue of abortion. The vote came out 51-38, and resulted in the decision that Article 40.3.3 (the Eight Amendment, which protects the “right to life of the unborn”) “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.”
The alternative option was for Article 40.3.3 to be “replaced or amended with a constitutional provision that directly addresses the termination of pregnancy, any rights of the unborn and any rights of the pregnant woman.” This option would have specified in the constitution under which circumstances abortion would be allowed, and would limit the powers of the Oirechtas to legislate on the issue.
Pro-choice activist groups are disappointed that Citizens’ Assembly did not recommend the law be repealed entirely. The London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign commented that they are “disappointed that after six months of deliberations – which included the heartfelt testimony of women forced to travel for abortions – that the Citizens’ Assembly has opted against recommending the Repeal of the Eighth Amendment.” The group did note, however, that they are “heartened that 87 per cent of members did vote for some form of constitutional change – proving the majority believe the Eighth is not fit for purpose.”
Brian Murray SC addressed members of Citizens’ Assembly on the same issue previously, and warned that a complete repeal of the Eighth Amendment might not lead to a more liberal abortion regime.
Some heated exchanges took place after the vote between Assembly members. Assembly chair Ms Justice Mary Laffoy commented that it was a “fraught” day for members, and asked members to be “respectful of [their] fellow citizens and alternative viewpoints” in the final session on Sunday. Ms Justice Laffoy hopes that the members will “regain collegiality.”
This upcoming Sunday, members will analyze eight different scenarios in which the Oireachtas might legislate on the issue of abortion. Some of these issues include a real and substantial physical risk the woman’s life, a serious risk to the physical or mental health of the woman, and availability upon request with no restrictions as to reasons for the abortion.
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