Mixed reaction to Citizens' Assembly recommendations

The assembly recommended that women should be legally able to access unrestricted abortion services

Mixed reaction to Citizens' Assembly recommendations

Citizens Assembly Chairperson Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, 22-04-2017. Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

There has been a mixed reaction to the Citizens' Assembly recommendation to allow unrestricted access to abortion services in Ireland.

Following four rounds of voting looking at a range of different ways to deal with the Eighth Amendment to the constitution, the assembly recommended by a 64% majority that women should be legally able to access abortion services with no restriction as to reasoning.

A majority of members voted to allow for abortion in all 13 scenarios under consideration with a number of options available regarding gestational term limits.

Of the 64% who supported unrestricted access:

  • 25 people put a gestational limit of 12 weeks on availability.
  • 23 people put a gestational limit of 22 weeks on availability.
  • 4 people voted for unrestricted access at any time during a pregnancy.

A report will now be prepared for the Government - with a referendum expected to be held as a result of its work.

An historic step

This morning, the National Women’s Council of Ireland welcomed the recommendations – describing the support for unrestricted access as an historic step on the road to equality.

The council’s director, Orla O'Connor, said the government now needs to listen to the assembly:

“What they have clearly said is that the choice should rest with women,” she said. “That women are best placed to make decisions about their own lives and whether to continue with a pregnancy or not.”

“That is really important because that is about placing women at the centre and that is a really important direction that they have given to the Oireachtas.”

She said the government have been given a “very, very clear direction.”

“They have said we need a referendum. They have put women’s needs – particularly women’s health needs - at the centre of the decision and they have said that abortion needs to be made available in Ireland.”

Newstalk Breakfast debate

On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, representatives on both sides of the divisive debate gave their reactions to the recommendations.

Cora Sherlock of the Pro-Life campaign said the assembly has been a “chaotic muddled, managed shambles from start to beginning” claiming that the outcome is disturbing from a human rights point of view.

“What she saw over the weekend in particular, and over the weeks leading up to this weekend, was a situation where evidence-based medicine gave way to ideology,” she said.

She refused to accept that the recommendations should lead to a new abortion referendum and argued that once you open the door to abortion in any circumstance, “you eventually open the door to widespread abortion.”

Ailbhe Smyth from the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment said the findings show the educated opinion of middle Ireland.

“There is a problem here in this country; we have to get to grips with it,” she said. “It is very real; we can’t go on ignoring or denying the fact that women need abortion.”

“We need to look at that in some detail and really grasp it and begin to take steps to deal with it.”

She said the government had been given a mandate to completely reconsider Ireland’s approach to abortion.

“Take the ban against abortion out of the constitution and put in to the constitution instead a mandate or a direction, an instruction to government to actually legislate and to legislate on terms which acknowledge the realities and which don’t pretend that something different is going on,” she said.

The recommendations will be handed to the Oireachtas by the end of June.

It will then be up to an all-party committee to propose legislative changes ahead of any possible referendum.