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Citizens' Assembly publishes additional recommendations on the Eighth Amendment

Five ancillary recommendations have been made, derived from the personal opinions of the members of the Assembly.

20170629_121243 Source: TheJournal.ie

Updated 10.05pm

THE CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLY has today published its report and recommendations, and ancillary recommendations, regarding the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.

The three main recommendations made by the Assembly were first arrived at following the balloting of its 100 members at its final weekend meeting in late April.

They are:

  • That Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution (the Eighth Amendment, which equates the right to life of the unborn with that of the mother) should not be retained in full
  • That Article 40.3.3 should be replaced or amended, not repealed
  • That Article 40.3.3 should be replaced with a Constitutional provision that explicitly authorises the Oireachtas to legislate to address termination of pregnancy, any rights of the unborn, and any rights of the pregnant woman

Should the final recommendation be adopted by the Oireachtas, a referendum would have to be held in order to ratify it.

Those three recommendations resulted from a series of votes taken from the attendant Assembly members on the 22 and 23 April:

Further recommendations were also made as to what should be included in that Constitutional legislation – for example, the reasons as to why termination should be lawful in Ireland, and the gestational limits applicable.

However, today’s report also includes five ancillary (ie, not voted upon) recommendations, arrived at using the individual responses of each of the 74 members of the Assembly who chose to fill out an individual response form on the final day of the Assembly (only 88 of the 100 members were present on the final day).

The Citizens' Assembly Source: Philip Fitzpatrick

These recommendations were arrived at via a consensus (ie a majority were in agreement) of the members’ responses. The decision to include them was made as a result of feedback from the members which “indicated that they also wanted to see wider policy issues, as distinct from just legal changes, reflected in the recommendations of the Assembly”.

Those recommendations, which had not previously been seen, are:

  1. Improvements should be made in sexual health and relationship education, including the areas of contraception and consent, in primary and post-primary schools, colleges, youth clubs and other organisations involved in education and interactions with young people
  2. Improved access to reproductive healthcare services should be available to all women – to include family planning services, contraception, perinatal hospice care and termination of pregnancy, if required
  3. All women should have access to the same standard of obstetrical care, including early scanning and testing. Services should be available to all women throughout the country irrespective of geographic location  or socio-economic circumstances
  4. Improvements should be made to counselling and support facilities for pregnant women both during pregnancy and, if necessary, following a termination of pregnancy, throughout the country
  5. Further consideration should be given as to who will fund and carry out termination of pregnancy in Ireland

Between 15 and 20 members calling for a recommendation (roughly 25%) was taken to be consensus.

Two further recommendations have not been made as consensus was not reached. However, the chair of the Assembly, former Supreme Court Justice Mary Laffoy, chose to mention them as a significant number of members (roughly 10%) had expressed a wish for those recommendations to be made:

The decriminalisation of abortion, including the use of the abortion pill; and recognition of and protection of female reproductive rights and autonomy; were also provided in the responses from the Members.

The full report will now be referred for consideration to the special Oireachtas committee on abortion before it in turn brings its conclusions to the Dáil for debate.

Speaking on foot of the publication of the recommendations, Health Minister Simon Harris said: “It is very important now that the Special Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment commence its work to examine the recommendations of the Citizen’s Assembly. This is an issue that, as a nation, we now need to deal with definitively.

“This must be a respectful debate and I am determined that we will prove ourselves capable of addressing these issues in a respectful way. I want to be the minister who brings forward the legislation to enable this important referendum in 2018.”

With reporting by Órla Ryan

The full report can be read here

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