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Citizens' Assembly - here's what individual members said about the Eighth Amendment

The personal opinions of the members of the Citizens’ Assembly directly influenced five additional recommendations.

citizens assembly Two members of the Citizens' Assembly cast their votes on Ballot One at the Grand Hotel in Malahide on 22 April Source: Sam Boal

YESTERDAY’S PUBLICATION OF the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on the Eighth Amendment included a further five ‘ancillary’ recommendations.

Those suggestions were included in the report specifically to represent the concerns of the 99 members of the Assembly that “wider policy issues” concerning the Eighth be taken into consideration, not just legal changes.

The relevant concerns were expressed by 74 of the members present at the end of the Assembly’s meetings on Sunday 23 April via a ‘Member Reflective Exercise’ – similar to the ‘any further opinions’ section found at the end of many surveys.

The five further recommendations were each arrived at via consensus of the members who responded – and are a representation of the Assembly members’ own views, as opposed to the way in which they voted on the Assembly’s final ballots.

Two further recommendations (concerning the decriminalisation of abortion and the recognition of female reproductive rights) were not made as consensus was not deemed to have been reached.

All 74 of the responses are included in Appendix B of the report. The following are just some of them:

Recommendation One – Improvements should be made in sexual health and relationship education

“A comprehensive sexual education programme needs to be implemented in schools.” [Response 21]

When people can openly and freely discuss all of these difficult issues, with informed minds, this country will be better for it. Specially trained (and comprehensively) teachers from DoE/HSE should operate nationwide and visit secondary schools 2-3 times during the course of secondary education, at third level and operate info distribution for all. [Response 23]

“I would like to see investment in sex education, empowering our girls and boys on issues around consent, and protection.” [Response 31]

Recommendation Two – Improved access to reproductive healthcare should be available to all women – including termination of pregnancy if required

“In 2009/2010 the US state of Colorado introduced a free birth control programme. Over a five-year period this led to a 42% fall in abortions.” [Response 15]

90435161_90435161 Justice Mary Laffoy, addressing the Assembly last November Source: Sam Boal

Contraception should be free. [Response 22]

“New regulatory framework should be put in place to make sure women have equal and unimpeded access to the highest standard of reproductive health care, including abortion.” [Response 45]

To provide free after care for anyone who has had an abortion – to destigmatise it, remove the “fear”. [Response 66]

Recommendation Three – All women should have access to the same standard of obstetrical care

“I would like for some real reference to be made to the serious need for assistance to be given to the socially disadvantaged either due to poverty or because of being non citizens who have crisis pregnancies.” [Response 28]

That all women have access to the same standard of obstetrical care and to include early scanning and testing. [Response 50]

“State funded access should be available to gynaecological care for all pregnant women.” [Response 39]

Equal access to proper screening for all women regardless of economic or geographical status. [Response 33]

Recommendation Four – Improvements should be made to counselling and support facilities for pregnant women

“Whether a female has/hasn’t an abortion, this country should take the stance of supporting/aiding such a person regardless of their circumstances.” [Response 23]

Proper counselling services to be accessible to all women before/after decisions are made. [Response 33]

“Due to the stigma of termination in Ireland, free counselling should be provided before and especially after.” [Response 36]

Recommendation Five – Further consideration should be given as to who will fund and carry out terminations in Ireland

“Termination services should be publicly funded and located within (ease of access for women) in each county.” [Response 21]

I would like to recommend that they discuss the financial aspects of a termination. Who is going to pay? How much? Will it be covered on a medical card or will people be means tested etc. Will there be clinics in Ireland to terminate or will people still have to travel to England? [Response 11]

“I wish to have finance included in the recommendations. Who will fund the procedures if they are needed.” [Response 12]

“I would like to make suggestion of putting the proposal to the HSE/Government of providing all healthcare connected with the termination of pregnancy to be free of charge.” [Response 14]

Note: Consensus was not reached on the following responses

citass One of the responses from the report. Source: TheJournal.ie

On the decriminalisation of abortion and the autonomy of women

“Decriminalise abortion in Ireland.” [Response 29]

Abortion should be decriminalised. [Response 45]

“I would like to see something put in place that specifically recognises each citizen’s right to reproductive autonomy. The unborn being considered a citizen is a very strange and unusual circumstance that is unique to Ireland as far as I am aware.” [Response 6]

I would like the Oireachtas to consider the language used and to recognise the necessity of including terminology that expressly details self autonomy of the female reproductive system as it will then demonstrate the respect it has for women in Irish society. [Response 17]

“Abortion medically up to 12 weeks should be available at a low cost to all women in Ireland.” [Response 24]

The Citizens' Assembly Source: Philip Fitzpatrick

And others…

“I would also like it to be noted that many citizens, myself included, did not want to be in a position where they decided when a termination was justified for a woman and believe that this is a medical and not a political issue, but there was no opportunity to express this on a ballot.” [Response 1]

I feel that the general public don’t understand that repeal means leaving it to the government to do about legalising abortion. Amend seems to me that we, the public, have more control over what changes are made. [Response 47]
This has been a very difficult topic. We have tried to deal with it compassionately. There should be no victory rolls by pro-choice or doom and gloom by pro-life. [Response 66]

“My fear after the voting of this weekend is the complete lack of empathy for the unborn baby.” [Response 55]

“The Oireachtas Committee should read all documentation and watch all presentations/Q&As to ensure they are as informed as the members are. Test them! We don’t trust them.” [Response 20]

Given that we were given a deadline for our work they (the Oireachtas) must be urged to act in a timely fashion. [Response 9]

“National Maternity services should not be led by religious orders” [Response 13, and many others]

It’s extremely important that the Oireachtas move to call a referendum as soon as possible. [Response 24]

“It seems that there is now no provision for the protection of the unborn. The focus has shifted totally to termination of pregnancy and I find this extremely worrying and in conflict with the overall meaning of our constitution. We have also had problems during this last weekend with lobbyist huddles.” [Response 37]

The Oireachtas should move to liberalise abortion, and allow for the women of Ireland to feel genuinely cherished by their own nation. [Response 73]

And finally

“It has been mentally tiring. I will be glad to move onto the next topic.” [Response 58]

I recommend that silly questions should not be justified. [Response 5]

Read: Citizens’ Assembly publishes additional recommendations on the Eighth Amendment

Read: Complaint about RTÉ coverage of undercover pregnancy counselling report is rejected

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