Citizens' Assembly recommends abortion legislation in a number of cases

Yesterday, members decided that the country's abortion laws should be changed

Citizens' Assembly recommends abortion legislation in a number of cases

A member of the Citizens' Assembly votes in Ballot 1. Image: Sam Boal

Updated at 15:34

The Citizens' Assembly will be recommending to the Oireachtas that unrestricted legal abortion be introduced to Ireland.

Members examined eight scenarios in which the Oireachtas might legislate for abortion, and also the time limits for such abortions.

The report from the Citizens' Assembly will also be recommending that abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality be allowed, following a majority vote of 89%.

99% of assembly has voted to continue to allow abortion when there's substantial physical risk to woman's life, while 89% of the citizens assembly have voted that abortion should be available in cases of rape.

A constitutional referendum on changing Ireland's abortion legislation now looks likely to take place.

The full results from today's vote are as follows:

  • 93% voted to allow abortion when there is serious risk to the physical health of the mother
  • 90% of the Citizens Assembly' said a risk to a woman's mental health should be grounds for legal abortion
  • 47% said that on mental health grounds, there should be no gestational limit
  • 78% said a risk to the mental health of the woman should be grounds for legal abortion
  • 72% of the citizens assembly has voted that socio-economic reasons should be grounds for legal abortion
  • The majority of the citizens assembly has voted that abortion should be available in Ireland with no restriction as to reasons
  • The citizens assembly has voted that women should be able to legally access abortion in Ireland, with no restriction on her reasons.

'A change to the status quo'

Speaking after the vote, Chair of the Assembly Justice Mary Laffoy said:

"You have made your recommendations known. These recommendations at a minimum have called for a change to the status quo. 

"To be clear, to act on this intitial recommendation, a constitutional referendum will be required."

Yesterday, members decided that the country's abortion laws should be changed, that the Eighth Amendment should be replaced rather than repealed and that only the Oireachtas should have the power to legislate for abortion.

The 91 ordinary Assembly members at yesterday's deliberations voted secretly three times.

In the first ballot, by almost 7 to 1 they rejected the current constitutional restrictions.

Then, by a 12% margin, they rejected the option of repealing the Constitutional article containing the highly contentious Eighth Amendment, opting instead to replace or amend it.

Finally, by a 14% margin, they voted that the current constitutional restrictions should be replaced with a provision in the basic law that would explicitly authorise the Dáil and Seanad to legislate on the issue.

Chair of the Assembly Ms Justice Mary Laffoy admitted it had been a “fraught” day for them, and asked that they be “respectful of your fellow citizens and alternative viewpoints” in the final session.

Where does the public stand?

Yesterday's vote is broadly in line with recent opinion polls on the issue of abortion.

Just 16% of the public in an Irish Times opinion poll published in March believed the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution should be retained in its current format.

The report from the Citizens' Assembly will form the basis of a report sent to the Oireachtas by Ms Justice Laffoy in June.