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Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Leah Farrell Strike4Repeal protests in Dublin in March.
# the eighth
The Citizens' Assembly votes on abortion today. Here's how it will play out
Up to four votes could take place over the course of two days.

THE CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLY’S recommendation on Ireland’s future abortion laws will be determined by up to four votes over the next two days.

The process concludes deliberations on the issue of the Eighth Amendment before chair Justice Mary Laffoy prepares a report for the Oireachtas.

The assembly meets at 9am this morning and the first vote at 11.05am may conclude the weekend’s programme. If not, up to three more votes will take place.

Assembly members have previously been told that their options include repealing the Eighth Amendment, replacing it or retaining it as it is.

The wording of the ballots being put before the assembly members will be made public at 10am this morning.

The assembly members have already seen the ballot papers as they were presented with them a number of weeks ago.

The wording of the questions were prepared by Laffoy in consultation with the assembly’s steering group as well as legal and medical experts.

A spokesperson for the assembly’s secretariat said the issues they deal with are based on feedback from members.

“At the end of the last meeting we did a reflective exercise with them which asked them precisely to give us what they would like to vote on,” the spokesperson said.

‘What are the issues that you would like to see reflected in a ballot paper?’ And we got a response back from everyone on that and the secretariat collated that material and it has informed the foundation of the ballot.

Over four separate weekends, assembly members have heard a range of presentations on the issue. These includes testimony from legal professionals, medical professionals, women affected by the Eighth Amendment and 17 different advocacy groups.

Members have also had access to more than 13,000 public submissions made to the assembly.

Voting by members will be in secret and the voting process and counting of ballot papers will be overseen by John Fitzpatrick, the former Returning Officer for County Dublin.

The report from Laffoy to the Oireachtas will be based on the results of the voting as well as the ballots themselves and any other recommendations assembly members have themselves made.

That report is due to be delivered to the Oireachtas before the end of June and a committee is being established to examine its recommendations.

If a change is recommended, the government must decide if a referendum is required. It is unlikely that any such referendum would occur before the middle of next year.

The Citizens’ Assembly was tasked with looking at five separate issues, with the Eighth Amendment the first to be discussed.

The Eighth Amendment to the constitution was effected in 1983 after a referendum and acknowledges the right to life of the unborn, equating it with the mother’s right to life.

Read: ‘My only thought was if this plane crashes everyone is going to know that I’m pregnant’ >

Column: ‘There’s a strong chance the Assembly won’t recommend repealing the Eighth Amendment outright’ >

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