Today's Citizen's Assembly will hear from six women who have had an abortion

This weekend's session will see its most intensive deliberations to date on the Eighth Amendment

Today's Citizen's Assembly will hear from six women who have had an abortion

Ms Justice Mary Laffoy addressing members of the Citizens Assembly | Image: Rollingnews.ie

The Citizens Assembly will today hear first hand testimonies from six women who have been directly affected by the Eighth Amendment - including those who had a crisis pregnancy and those who received a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality.

The group of 99 citizens, which was set up to consider the need to repeal the Eighth Amendment, is coming to the end of its deliberations.

The assembly has previously met over the course of three weekends and heard factual accounts of the medical and legal situation regarding Ireland's restrictions on abortion, with this being the last weekend that the assembly will spend listening to presentations.

As part of its work, the assembly received over 13,500 submissions from advocacy groups and members of the public.

At its final meeting on April 8, the 99 citizens will vote on whether or not a referendum should be called on changing Ireland's abortion laws.

This afternoon, the members will be shown six anonymous recorded interviews with women who experienced crisis pregnancies or terminations for medical reasons after a fatal foetal abnormality. The women will tell their personal experiences of how their abortion has affected them and their families. 

Chair of the Assembly, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy has asked both sides of the debate to listen to their stories and to show respect to them and their experiences.

Speaking at this morning's assembly welcome, Ms Laffoy said today's meeting would begin with a number of discreet legal sessions, with the purpose being "to clarify outstanding legal issues raised by members in feedback sessions, and to provide an overview - in a neutral way - about the options available, in law, in relation to the Eight Amendment."
 
The 17 advocacy groups that made submissions to the assembly will present in five sessions tomorrow. The groups who will make oral presentations are representative of varied ideological positions and experiences.

To account for the weekend's significant work programme, this session was lengthened compared to previous meetings with the consent of the assembly members.

Ms Laffoy also took a moment to pay tribute to the six women who provided their personal stories of abortion, saying that:

"I would like to take the opportunity to sincerely thank each woman who has agreed to be interviewed and share her experience."

She added that she thinks the afternoons session will be "moving, and emotionally challenged for all us, but it is an essential aspect of our considerations."

 

More details of this weekend’s schedule are available online, and the proceedings will also be streamed on citizensassembly.ie.

Listen to Ms Justice Mary Laffoy's welcome speech in full below: