Oireachtas committee recommends 8th amendment be repealed

Taoiseach says he intends to hold abortion referendum in May 2018

Oireachtas committee recommends 8th amendment be repealed

Oireachtas Committee on 8th amendment. Image: Oireachtas TV

Updated: 20.20

The Oireachtas committee looking at the 8th amendment has recommended abortions be allowed for any reason up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

They have also voted to decriminalise abortion and to repeal the 8th amendment.

They will now put together a final report and the Oireachtas will consider legislation - with the Taoiseach hoping a referendum on abortion can be held in May next year

The motion in support for repeal was passed by 14 votes to six, while chairperson Catherine Noone abstained from the vote.

Senator Catherine Noone announced the results in the committee earlier, before the committee went on to vote on a series of more specific measures.

The committee later voted to allow abortion without restriction up to 12 weeks of the pregnancy - with 12 votes in favour, five against and four abstentions.

It has also voted to support abortion in cases of rape, and in cases of foetal abnormality "that is likely to result in death before or shortly after birth".

Committee chairperson, Senator Noone, broke her pattern of abstentions on the issue of foetal abnormalities, adding: "I feel so strongly about this one, I have to say 'Tá'".

However, the committee rejected findings for terminations in cases where there is a significant foetal abnormality that is not likely to result in death before or shortly after birth.

A motion to allow abortion on the basis of socio-economic reasons has also been defeated by 11 votes to five, with five abstentions.

The committee decided not to vote on one of the final recommendations - that termination of pregnancy be lawful with no restriction as to reason - as Chairperson Noone suggested "it may create confusion".

They have also decided some of the Citizens' Assembly recommendations that they will support in their final report.

These include:

  • Allowing terminations when there is substantial physical risk to the life of a woman
  • Real and substantial risk to the life of a woman by suicide
  • Serious risk to the physical and mental health of the woman
  • Any risk to the health of the woman

There were differing views among the membership of the committee as to what exactly new abortion laws should look like - but a majority were in favour of repealing the 8th.

A number of other circumstances have been debated this evening.

If passed in a referendum, repealing the amendment would leave it to the Oireachtas to decide what laws would govern abortion in Ireland.

Six members voted against repeal for a number of reasons. Three thought the current laws should not be changed.

Two Fianna Fáil TDs, meanwhile, have suggested that abortion should only be allowed in circumstances of fatal foetal abnormality, incest, rape and risk to the life of the mother. 

The committee is also set to recommend improving sex education in schools.

Referendum plans

Earlier, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he wants to see an abortion referendum in May next year.

A May vote would mean a referendum bill needs to pass in January, but the Dáil will not be back from holidays until the 16th.

Mr Varadkar said: "It's my intention that we should have a referendum in May 2018.

"As I do not have a majority in this House, unfortunately, and as the guillotine no longer exists I can't promise you that - because we don't control the House.

"However it will be in the House's hands, obviously a number of things need to be done".

Reporting by Sean Defoe, Michael Staines, Jack Quann and Stephen McNeice