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Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Screengrab via Catherine Noon
abortion laws

Eighth Amendment committee to vote on repealing the Eighth today

After the vote, the committee will begin drafting a report on its recommendations.

THE EIGHTH AMENDMENT committee are meeting for the last time today to vote on whether they are to recommend repealing the Eighth Amendment.

The Eighth Amendment gives equal status to the unborn and the mother. The committee is tasked with weighing up the arguments for and against the retention of the Eighth Amendment.

Speaking to Chair of the Oireachtas Committee Catherine Noone said, “We’ll start on the vote of whether or not to repeal and then we’ll make our way through all the various amendments in conjunction with the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly.”

While there are more than 40 amendments, Noone said a lot of them will group together.

After the vote, the committee will begin drafting a report on its recommendations. All members are agreed that the shorter the report is, the better but that legal advice will need to be taken.

The report is due to be presented to the government by 20 December, before the wording of next year’s referendum will be finalised.

Committee members have already decided that the don’t want the Eighth Amendment to remain as it is, but whether it is to be completely repealed is still in question.

Overall, the members are expected to vote in favour of repealing article 40.3.3 of the Constitution and allowing the Oireachtas to legislate for terminations.

It’s also expected to support the decriminalisation of abortion, the provision of contraceptives for free and improving sex education in schools.

There are 21 members of the Eighth Amendment Committee, three members – Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick, Independent TD Mattie McGrath and Independent Senator Rónán Mullen – are expected to vote against any measure to remove the Eighth Amendment.

This week Fine Gael’s Hildegarde Naughton said she changed her position and will now support abortion being made available without restrictions after hearing evidence while on the committee.

She is now one of 10 committee members who are expected to confirm support for unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks.

Throughout the course of its work, the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment has been told by medical experts that the Amendment has a chilling effect on their work.

In October, Dr Peter Boylan, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the National Maternity Hospital, said:

I don’t think the Constitution is the place to regulate medical practice. [The Eighth] has caused endless problems … You need to legislate.

Pro-life groups have accused the committee of having a pro-choice bias, something that has been repeatedly denied by its chairperson, Noone. A number of pro-life speakers have refused to appear at the committee, saying its outcome is predetermined. Again, this has been denied by Noone and other members.

Tweeting last night, the chair of committee, Noone said, “Like the entire process so far, the voting will be as transparent as possible for viewers outside of the committee.”

Over the weekend an opinion poll revealed that the majority of voters want the Constitution to be changed to allow the Oireachtas legislate for greater access to abortion.

Read: Most people want Ireland’s abortion law changed, according to new poll>

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