#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 7°C Sunday 23 January 2022

'When the blood flows from abortion, Satan has his day' - Citizens' Assembly letters go online

Some 8,000 submissions were made to the assembly online and about 5,500 by post

An anti-abortion protest in Dublin last year.
An anti-abortion protest in Dublin last year.
Image: RollingNews.ie

ABOUT 800 OF the more than 13,500 submissions to the Citizens’ Assembly have been put online ahead of this weekend’s meeting of the 99 person assembly.

This weekend’s meeting is the third of the assembly and the second on the issue of the Eighth Amendment.

The deadline for public submissions to the assembly closed on 16 December and a portion of what has been received has now been uploaded to its website.

A spokesperson for the assembly has said that the remainder of the submissions are expected to be online in the next four to six weeks as each one is required to be read and vetted.

Contact details from some written submissions have to be removed, for example, and some may not be published if they are considered offensive.

Members of the assembly have been encouraged to look through the submissions and the assembly is also to discuss the best method of making the large volume of material more digestible for members.

The submissions include opinion-based testimonies from individual members of the public, interest groups as well as personal stories.

Looking through the correspondence, it is clear that many individual submissions follow a template as they contain the same passages word-for-word as other submissions.

One common submission that opposes any change to abortion laws opens with the following passage:

Members of the Citizens’ Assembly,

The Citizens’ Assembly has been asked to consider a referendum to repeal the right to life of the unborn child as protected under the 8th amendment to the constitution. As an Irish citizen who strongly believes in the value of every human life, this prospect causes me great concern.

Although that paragraph is common in many of the submissions, it is incorrect in that the assembly has not been asked to consider a referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

It’s expected that assembly members will decide at their meeting in March whether any change to Irish laws are required and it would be for the government to decide if a referendum is required.

26/11/2016 Abortion Issues Members of the Citizens Assembly during its meeting in November. Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

A spokesperson for the assembly’s secretariat has said that it will not be fact-checking the submissions they receive as the purpose of the submissions is to “engage members of the public”.

The unborn

Many of the submissions that oppose any change to Irish law argue that unborn children deserve the same protection as citizens.

One submission by Catherine McSweeney reads:

We are not allowed in law to kill our neighbours or people in the street – why should unborn children be any different?

sherlock Source: citizensassembly.ie

Many of the submissions that are opposed to abortion make religious-based arguments. One by Bridget Sherlock says:

When the blood flows from abortion, Satan has his day and that has consequences for everyone. Jesus told us in the Garden of Gethsemane, all who draw the sword will die by the sword. God forbid Ireland to fall on the sword but when it comes to God – ‘tis all or nothing.

Repeal the 8th

Many of the letters written in support of a change in Irish law are also templates and are titled ‘Repeal the Eighth Amendment’.

For example, the Artists’ Campaign to Repeal the Eighth Amendment was cited in some submissions and it reads:

The decision to insert the Eighth Amendment into the Irish Constitution in 1983 was a disastrous mistake which has led to inexcusable suffering for many women in Ireland and is an ongoing cause of shame for Irish citizens.

26/11/2016 Abortion Issues Chair of the Citizens' Assembly Justice Mary Laffoy. Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Personal stories are also a common feature of the submissions. One by Catherine Connelly is titled, ‘Why being a mother has made me more pro-choice’:

Changing nappies at 3am, having milk leak all down my top, walking with an ache from my womb – all with contentment and deep understanding that I chose this. All of this. This hard and holy work. I would never ever place this work of pregnancy, of mentally preparing to birth and physically birthing within the Irish system where choices are lacking. I would never want a woman who doesn’t want a(nother) child to have to go through it all.

PastedImage-17413 Source: CitizensAssembly.ie

Moral and legal issues

This weekend’s meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly will hear from a total of seven different speakers who will discuss medical, legal and ethical considerations.

As per the feedback from assembly members after their previous meeting, there is to be a specific focus on cases of foetal abnormalities, both fatal and otherwise.

Case studies, including that of Amanda Mellet, will be frequent among the presentations.

A spokesperson for the assembly has said that members have already expressed a desire to begin teasing out their ultimate recommendation and this will be touched upon this weekend.

The members will also be given a presentation by Dr David Kenny of Trinity College Dublin on ‘How laws are made and changed’.

Further details of this weekend’s schedule are available online and the proceedings will also be streamed on citizensassembly.ie.

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

Read: “Why has she not gone abroad? Why would she do that to herself?” >

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

Read next: