Abortion laws 'require unjust self sacrifice of women', says doctor
Personal stories of women who have had abortions and crisis pregnancies will be heard by the Citizens' Assembly in March.
It will also hear from a range of advocacy groups at next month's meeting.
Yesterday's session started with a debate between pro-life and pro-choice specialists on the ethical aspects of abortion.
Dr Donal O'Mathuna, a senior lecturer in ethics, decision-making and evidence at Dublin City University, told the assembly the issue of autonomous decision-making about abortion was unfair to the unborn.
"Where is the fairness in this for the unborn, who are totally without power? Relational autonomy holds that in relationships we must consider our responsibilities towards others, not just our rights," he said.
He urged rape victims to give birth because abortions wouldn't bring "justice".
"Rape is abhorred. But the unborn had nothing to do with the harm that was inflicted there. Why should they be the ones who have their chance of life removed because of that terrible situation?"
Dr Joan McCarthy, of University College Cork, however, said the Eighth Amendment trampled on women's autonomy rights and posed serious risks to the mental and physical health of pregnant women. She said the amendment required of expectant mothers a self sacrifice that was unreasonable and unjust.
She told the Assembly she objected to the term 'abortion on demand', describing it as a "harsh description of the decision the woman has to make".
"She isn't choosing from a menu, she has to take in the constraints, other children, dependants, poverty, her health risks, her life risk."
Next month the assembly will hear directly from women who have been affected by the Eighth Amendment.
"Hearing personal testimony is important as it allows the citizens the opportunity to hear first hand about how the matters they are discussing at these weekends affect women and their families," said assembly chairman Ms Justice Laffoy. "We are developing a work programme for the next meeting that will bring this testimony to the members in an informative manner."