Citizens’ Assembly calls for wide access to abortion in Republic of Ireland

The Citizens’ Assembly, a public forum of 99 members set up to advise the Irish Government on public ethical issues, has voted 52 to 29 to recommend reform of Ireland’s constitution to allow abortion without restriction for up to 12 weeks, for some reasons for up to 22 weeks, and with no time limit in limited cases. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed the decision, which it is hoped will mark the beginning of a process to allow women in Ireland access to safe, legal abortion services.  

The recommendation of the Citizens’ Assembly, which is constructed so as to ensure its members reflect public opinion across Ireland, challenges the Eighth Amendment in the Irish Constitution, which effectively prohibits abortion except in the very limited circumstance where the life of pregnant woman is at risk. Over a series of 13 votes, the Assembly recommended that these exemptions should be extended to allow for abortion in all circumstances. Speaking after the vote, the Assembly chair Justice Laffoy indicated that this provided a clear mandate for the Irish Government to reform current legislation. This change is in line with current opinion in Ireland: a recent poll conducted by The Irish Times suggests that 84 percent of the public were in favour of reforming the amendment.

The Oireachtas, Ireland’s legislature, will now consider the Assembly’s recommendations and make a decision on whether these changes would require a constitutional referendum.  

BHA Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan commented, ‘Since 1980, over 160,000 women have been forced to travel abroad from Ireland to access a legal and safe abortion. Current legislation places an enormous and unjust emotional and financial burden upon vulnerable women. The decision taken by the Citizens’ Assembly is a huge step in the right direction. Its recommendation sets a clear precedent that a change of the law is required. We hope that the Oireachtas accepts these recommendations and begins the process of reforming this outdated article of the Irish constitution. We also hope this leads to renewed calls for similar change in Northern Ireland, where the situation women face is equally stark.’

Notes

For further comment or information contact Richy Thompson, Director of Public Affairs and Policy at richy@humanism.org.uk or on 0781 55 89 636.

Read about the Citizens’ Assembly’s work on the Eighth Amendment: https://www.citizensassembly.ie/en/The-Eighth-Amendment-of-the-Constitution/

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns around abortion: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/sexual-and-reproductive-rights/

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

The BHA is a member of the steering group of Voice for Choice, the national pro-choice coalition, and a supporter of the We Trust Women and Back Off campaigns. Northern Ireland Humanists, which is a part of the BHA, is also on the steering group of Trust Women NI, the campaign coalition seeking abortion law reform in Northern Ireland.

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