Citizens' Assembly on abortion 'pretend process with pre-arranged outcome' - Pro Life Campaign

Cora Sherlock and Senator Ivana Bacik got into a heated debate

Citizens Assembly, abortion, Cora Sherlock, Ivana Bacik, Pro Life Campaign, Pat Kenny Show

This composite image shows Senator Ivana Bacik (left) and Cora Sherlock (right) | Images: RollingNews.ie

Pro-Life advocates have hit out at the forthcoming Citizens' Assembly on abortion.

Yesterday it was revealed that Supreme Court judge Mary Laffoy will chair the assembly, which will see 99 citizens selected at random discuss the 8th amendment to the constitution protecting the right to life of the unborn.

She is the same judge that presided over the commission of inquiry into child abuse.

Pro-Life groups have made it clear they are unhappy with the talks which are due to start in September, calling it "a pretend process with a pre-arranged outcome".

However Pro Life Campaign spokesperson Cora Sherlock says they have no problem with the choice of chair.

"What the pro-life campaign has always said is that this is a pretend process with a pre-arranged outcome - and we stand over that," she told the Pat Kenny Show here on Newstalk.

"I want to make it very clear that that is not in any way a criticism of Judge Laffoy...The problem is not Judge Laffoy, the problem is the process she's being asked to chair."

"The Government knows that its about paving the way to a referendum to strip away the last legal protection for unborn children in Ireland - and let's be very clear about that: what we're talking about is abortion which ends the life of a human being."

'The 8th amendment has not stopped abortion'

In reply, Labour Senator Ivana Bacik said: "The 8th amendment...was passed to the Constitution in 1983, nobody under 50 had an opportunity to vote in it - and by creating this artificial, sort of, elevation of the right to life of the unborn it has caused immense difficulties for women and their doctors over many, many years."

"It hasn't helped one woman in crisis pregnancy, and indeed it has compounded the real difficulties faced by women in crisis pregnancy."

"The 8th amendment certainly has not stopped abortion happening, it simply makes it harder for women to access it in another jurisdiction."

Senator Bacik says opinion polls and public opinion show we do need a referendum.

"I very much hope that we will see it move towards a recommendation for a referendum", she said.

On claims the assembly is pre-determined, Senator Bacik replied: "I think it's extraordinary that people would oppose the whole thing of the Citizens' Assembly on the grounds that perhaps they're afraid their view won't prevail at it."

Ms Sherlock suggested: "What Ivana has always wanted is a debate where the baby is never mentioned...and I respect her for that - she has supported abortion up to birth."

Senator Bacik interrupted: "No I haven't Cora, that is utter nonsense."

Ms Sherlock than claimed: "There are many jurisdictions which allow abortion up to birth", to which Senator Bacik replied: "No they aren't Cora - you know it and I know it."

Asked to name such countries by host Jonathan Healy, Ms Sherlock replied: "I don't have the list of countries here where that happens."