Monday 19 March 2018

Citizens' Assembly to decide on 'scenarios abortion should be available' in final vote today

Assembly chair Ms Justice Mary Laffoy
Assembly chair Ms Justice Mary Laffoy

Laura Lynott

The Citizens' Assembly will decide in what specific scenarios it feels abortion should be available in its final vote today.

Yesterday, the Assembly voted to recommend that Ireland holds a referendum on abortion and said the Oireachtas should regulate the rights of women and the unborn.

However, it stopped short of recommending a repeal of the Eighth Amendment that limits the availability of legal abortions, instead voting to endorse amending or replacing the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.

Of the 91 members, 56pc voted to maintain Article 40.3.3 - with 44pc voting to repeal or delete the Amendment. The vote is one of a series of ballots across the weekend where members will make conclusions and recommendations. These will form the basis of a report that will be submitted to the Oireachtas for further consideration.

Earlier in the day, 87pc voted against retaining the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution in its entirety.

In a third vote, members voted that Article 40.3.3 should be replaced with a constitutional provision explicitly authorising the Oireachtas to regulate the termination of pregnancy and the rights of women and the unborn.

Assembly chair Ms Justice Mary Laffoy said it was clear the majority of members felt Article 40.3.3 should not be retained in full. She then called for a second ballot on repealing or replacing the Article. She added that the first of a series of votes "represents a clear decision" that the members seek to change "the status quo".

Voting started at the Grand Hotel, Malahide, Co Dublin, just before 11am as members cast private ballots after five weekends of legal, ethical and medical debates.

A group of pro-life protesters gathered outside the hotel as the meeting started.

Ms Justice Laffoy said the assembly had come under significant stress in recent weeks as its task became more daunting.

"This is one of the most complex and contentious subjects in Irish society and we could not but feel that weight on our shoulders. And yet, by participating in the Assembly we have also been afforded a unique opportunity, as this exercise in deliberative democracy allowed us to withdraw from the polarising perspectives and begin first and foremost with the facts."

Ms Justice Laffoy said she had witnessed a wide range of views on abortion and this had been a "topic that has at times convulsed the nation" during the Assembly's five meetings since last November.

Sunday Independent

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