Sunday 28 May 2017

Repeal of Eighth Amendment will not create a legal vacuum

It is the duty of the Oireachtas to propose and enact legislation. The Taoiseach cannot renege on that duty.
It is the duty of the Oireachtas to propose and enact legislation. The Taoiseach cannot renege on that duty.

Dr Vicky Conway and Mairead Enright

Taoiseach Enda Kenny recently stated that he would not support a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution without knowing what would replace it. We take issue with that position.

If the Eighth Amendment were repealed, the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 would continue to regulate abortion provision in Ireland until it was repealed, or successfully challenged in court. There would be no legislative vacuum. Instead, legislators would have greater confidence that they could enact workable abortion legislation without falling foul of the Constitution. It is the duty of the Oireachtas to propose and enact legislation. The Taoiseach cannot renege on that duty.

The Taoiseach says that he is "quite prepared to listen to people who have contributions to make" as to what post-repeal abortion legislation and regulation might look like. The requirements of constitutional law and international human rights law in this regard are very clear. Pregnant women need legislation which will vindicate their rights to life, freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, bodily integrity and autonomy, self-determination, private and family life, health, and the right of access to healthcare and to the information necessary to make appropriate medical decisions.

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