Oireachtas urged to look to Europe for abortion referendum options

The Oireachtas is considering six options for a possible referendum on abortion

Oireachtas urged to look to Europe for abortion referendum options

Obstetrician Dr Peter Boylan pictured at Galway Coroners Court, sitting at Galway County Hall | Photocall file photo

Six options for a possible referendum on abortion are to be considered by the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment.

The Committee yesterday recommended that the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution should not be retained in full.

Among the options to be considered are:

  • A simple repeal of the Eighth Amendment
  • Repealing the amendment and replacing it with a new constitutional provision
  • Replacing the amendment with non-constitutionally binding legislation
  • Allowing the Oireachtas exclusive power to regulate on the matter
  • Stipulating specific ground for legal abortion
  • Stipulating broad grounds for legal abortion

Last night's committee vote was its first after weeks of hearings - with 15 members voting Yes, three voting No and two members abstaining.

A report must be produced by mid-December with a referendum organised for next May or June.

On the Pat Kenny Show this morning, the chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Peter Boylan said there is plenty of guidance in Europe for possible legislation:

"Every other country in Europe has legislated for this and as I said they all have their own different historical backgrounds and religious influences," he said.

"What the legislators can do is pick and choose from legislation around Europe.

"The most conservative would be if it was restricted to less than in the first trimester with the pills and then for other reasons like the health of the mother where there is a fatal foetal abnormality or rape obviously."

Dr Boylan appeared in front of the committee yesterday warning that the anger of women who have been forced to travel for abortion should not be underestimated.

He said the Eighth Amendment is "unworkable" in 2017 - warning that when it was originally enacted 34 years ago the internet and the abortion pill had yet to be invented.

He warned that doctors are gravely concerned about the potential for harm caused by the use of unregulated medicines.

Meanwhile a report into attitudes on abortion from 3,000 trade union members found overwhelming support for reform of abortion legislation on both sides of the border.

Approximately 80% of respondents agreed that women's health should be the priority in any reform of abortion laws, while one in five said they had direct experience of abortion as a workplace issue.