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'Dismay' and online anger as pro-choice TFMR Ireland excluded from Citizens' Assembly

17 groups were chosen from 120 submissions to present in front the Citizen’s Assembly

Pro-choice marchers gather at Merrion Square in Dublin.
Pro-choice marchers gather at Merrion Square in Dublin.
Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

A GROUP THAT campaigns for legalised abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities has said that it is ‘dismayed’ that it won’t be presenting at the Citizens’ Assembly.

Termination for Medical Reasons Ireland (TFMR Ireland) was not selected as one of the 17 advocacy groups that will address the 99 person assembly next week.

Eight of the groups that will present before the assembly are arguing for a change to Ireland’s abortion laws while nine favour

Umbrella group the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment was chosen to speak at the assembly and TFMR Ireland are a member of that group.

Out of more than 13,500 submissions made to the assembly, 120 submissions were made by advocacy groups and 17 of those groups will have one of their member present in person.

TFMR Ireland made a 47 page submission but they were not selected to speak.

“We are the only advocacy group that consists solely of women and couples who had their tragedies compounded by being refused the medical care of their choice purely because of the Eighth Amendment,” said chairperson of TFMR Ireland Gerry Edwards has said

How can the volunteer citizens and the public at large get a clear understanding of the issues if the groups most directly affected are excluded from the process?

Edwards said that TFMR Ireland wrote to the secretariat of the assembly about their concerns of being left out of the process.

The advocacy groups were chosen by the chair of the assembly Justice Mary Laffoy after she took feedback from assembly members about the perspectives they wanted to hear from.

Laffoy considered a number of factors when making her decision on what groups were required to attend. These included whether the groups were needed to provide new material that had not previously been given to assembly members.

The assembly previously witnessed two presentations that dealt specifically with the issue of fatal foetal abnormalities.

Laffoy said this week that she hopes the advocacy groups will provide a “calm, reasonable and enlightening series of presentations.”

All presentations are submitted to the assembly in advance and the assembly’s secretariat has says it reserves the right to “clarify any incorrect claims.

Personal stories 

Next weekend, the assembly will also hear personal stories from women affected by the Eighth Amendment. The assembly’s spokesperson said the women will be chosen in a way that promotes a balanced view of the issue.

The content of their presentations has not been confirmed but it is likely it will include a case of fatal foetal abnormality.

The women chosen to tell their stories were selected firstly from women who made a submission directly the assembly. It had been stated that women who told a personal story through advocacy groups would not present in person, but the assembly said today that this had changed.

“The personal stories cover a range of circumstances and were selected on the basis of balance. Where necessary representative groups where contacted to assist with this, ” according to a spokesperson.

Justice Laffoy is mindful of the importance of personal testimony in this discussion and in light of this she will at the March meeting outline the steps the secretariat has taken to draw attention to all of the personal stories received including those made through advocacy groups.

The Abortion Rights Campaign had taken issue with the previously stated decision that women who submitted through an advocacy group would not present in person.

“We asked women to submit their stories via our submission because we wanted to ensure their voices would be heard by guaranteeing their anonymity, an option not available on the Citizens’ Assembly website,” the group said in a statement yesterday.

- This article has been amended to reflected a clarification provided by the Citizens’ Assembly. 

- Additional reporting by Ronan Smyth

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Rónán Duffy

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