Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Irish Citizens Assembly Votes to Amend Constitutional Provision Prohibiting Abortion

Irish Times (April 22, 2017): Irish Citizens Assembly votes to amend abortion laws, by Niamh McIntyre: 

Currently Ireland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, only legally permitting abortions in cases where the pregnancy presents a real and substantial risk to a woman's life.  This has been interpreted to include instances where the pregnancy is the result of a rape.  Ireland has been criticized by human rights bodies because it has been difficult for women to actually obtain abortions under the circumstances it is legal and because the law does not allow women to have an abortion in cases of several fetal anomalies.  Ireland came under international scrutiny a few years ago when a hospital failed to perform an abortion on a woman who was severely hemorrhaging following a miscarriage who died because of lack of treatment.

The government's ability to amend its laws is constrained by the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution which recognizes “the right to life of the unborn . . . with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother.”

The Irish government convened a Citizens Assembly to determine whether to change the 8th Amendment.  The Assembly was composed of 99 members of the public that has met regularly since last October.  

Eighty-seven percent of the Citizens Assembly voted against retaining the 8th Amendment in its current form.  However, the Assembly voted in favor of replacement or amendment of the 8th Amendment rather than simply deleting the 8th Amendment without replacement.  The Assembly will now move onto a third vote considering when abortion should be permitted. The Assembly also recommended that there be a national referendum on Irish abortion laws.


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