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'More than five' anonymous women will have a vital say on the future of abortion in Ireland

The women will tell their own stories about their experience of the Eighth Amendment.

Anti-abortion activists outside the Citizens Assembly in Malahide last month.
Anti-abortion activists outside the Citizens Assembly in Malahide last month.
Image: am Boal/Rollingnews.ie

“MORE THAN FIVE” anonymous women will be selected to give their personal stories to the Citizens’ Assembly on the Eighth Amendment.

The women will not be speaking at this weekend’s meeting of this assembly but will be telling their stories beginning at the next meeting in March.

A spokesperson for the assembly’s secretariat said that they are currently working out exactly how the women will present their stories but that:

our overriding concern is to do that in the most sensitive way possible.

“The citizens have consistently said that they want to hear directly from women who have been affected by the Eighth Amendment,” the spokesperson added.

The women who will tell their personal stories will be selected out of those who have told personal stories through the assembly’s submissions process.

More than 13,500 submissions have been made to the assembly. By comparison, 800 submissions were made to the Constitutional Convention on the issue of same-sex marriage.

The assembly’s spokesperson said the women selected to tell their stories will not come from those who have made their submission through an advocacy group.

They will, however, be chosen in a way that promotes a balanced view of the issue.

“What we’re trying to achieve is a balance as to how the Eighth Amendment has affected women in the telling of these stories,” the spokesperson said.

Their exact number has not been finalised but it will be “more than five” and they will tell their stories in a way that allows them preserve their anonymity.

“We’re working out the ins and outs of it but most importantly we don’t want to do anything that would further traumatise somebody,” the spokesperson said.

Interest groups

Up until and including this weekend’s meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly, the 99 person forum has been hearing factual assessments of the legal and medical situation relating to abortion in Ireland.

The next meeting on the first weekend in March will hear the personal stories as well as the input of advocacy groups.

The groups have not yet been finalised and will be chosen by the assembly’s chairperson Justice Mary Laffoy in consultation with the members.

The spokesperson said they expect the advocacy groups will be invited to the assembly towards the end of this week and that “most are on standby.”

This latest meeting of the assembly begins this morning and is the third on the issue of the Eighth Amendment.

Two more meetings on the issue will be held before the assembly makes its recommendation to government at the beginning of April.

The agenda for this weekend’s meeting is available on the Citizens’ Assembly website, as is a profile of the speakers.

Among the issues that will be discussed today are the availability of legal terminations in other countries and the legal and care issues surrounding rape in Ireland.

Read: ‘When the blood flows from abortion, Satan has his day’ – Citizens’ Assembly letters go online >

Read: Citizens’ Assembly receives over 13,000 submissions about abortion >

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Rónán Duffy

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