Monday 19 November 2018

Citizens' assembly 'failed to adequately consider use of abortion pills'

Ms Justice Mary Laffoy. Photo: Tony Gavin
Ms Justice Mary Laffoy. Photo: Tony Gavin

Shona Murray

Ms Justice Mary Laffoy has revealed she is concerned about the lack of consideration the Citizens' Assembly gave to the frequency of Irish women taking abortion pills as an alternative to travelling abroad.

Ms Justice Laffoy chaired the Citizens' Assembly set up by former Taoiseach Enda Kenny to assess the demand by the public for changes to the Constitution.

She gave evidence yesterday to the Oireachtas Committee on abortion where the recommendations of the assembly on the issue of repealing the Eighth Amendment are being considered.

While she strenuously defended the process and the democratic outcome, Ms Justice Laffoy said she was concerned that the assembly didn't cover "sufficiently" the use of abortion pills by Irish women to terminate their pregnancies.

She recalled that the HSE had put online up-to-date statistics about the reduction of Irish women going to the UK and the Netherlands for terminations. She said at the same time an "increasing number of women from the island of Ireland" were making contact with abortion pill providers.

A total of 87pc of representatives of the assembly recommended that the Eighth Amendment should not be retained in full, and 56pc said it should be replaced or amended. Ms Justice Laffoy said the structure of the discussion was guided by principles that prioritised "evidence-based", "fair", "balanced" and informative research.

Senator Ronan Mullen told Ms Justice Laffoy he found the structure of the process "disturbing" and put it to her that it neglected to discuss how the existence of the Eighth Amendment "saved thousands of lives" and resulted in Ireland having far fewer abortions.

During the five weekends the assembly considered the issue, it heard from six women who said the presence of the Eighth Amendment affected their decisions during pregnancy. One of the women said she didn't have a termination because of the ban on abortion in Ireland and she discussed the positive impact the child had on her life.

Irish Independent

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