Citizens' Assembly concludes its second meeting on the 8th amendment

The debate has heard arguments from both sides

Citizens' Assembly concludes its second meeting on the 8th amendment

Dr Peter McParland from the National Maternity Hospital speaking to the Citizens Assembly | Image:

The Citizens' Assembly has concluded its meeting for today.

The assembly, which will meet again tomorrow, will make a recommendation to the Oireachtas in the coming months on whether or not a referendum should be called on changing Ireland's abortion laws.

Earlier, the assembly heard a debate on the question of the ethical status of a fetus.

Two philosophers debated whether a woman should have the right to choose an abortion in the case of a fatal fetal abnormality.

Professor Bobbie Farasides - a pro-choice philosopher from the Brighton and Sussex Medical School - and Dr Helen Watt - a pro-life researcher from the Anscombe Bioethics Centre - expressed opposing views on the issue.

Pro Choice speaker, Prof Bobby Farasides (left), from Brighton and Sussex Medical School, listens as Pro Life speaker, Dr Helen Watt from Anscombe Bioethics Centre, answers a question from the floor of the Citizens' Assembly | Image:

Earlier, an expert in foetal maternal medicine at the National Maternity Hospital said as many 30% of pregnancies are terminated because of a pre-natal down syndrome diagnosis.

Dr Peter McParland also said that he believes more women would choose abortions in cases of foetal anomalies if such an option was available.

He said many pregnant women are choosing to pay for a test to determine whether their child has down syndrome.

Dr McParland says a test to determine whether their child will be born with down syndrome has had a major impact in other European countries.

The assembly also heard from experts on the medical, legal and ethical issues raised by fatal and other foetal abnormalities and how they relate to the human rights of women and the current constitutional protection of the unborn.

Ireland's Catholic Bishops and the Pro-Life Campaign have both criticised the assembly's use of the term "fatal foetal abnormalities" in the agenda for the meeting.

The bishops' said that the use of such a term implies that death is both an imminent and inevitable outcome of certain medical conditions.

The meeting was the second out of four which will focus on how the 100 randomly selected members should advise legislators later in the year on the future of the 8th amendment to the Constitution, which explicitly recognises the right to life of an unborn child.