Constitution is no place for the regulation of women's healthcare
In most countries, access to abortion is covered by legislation and medical regulations, not in constitutions. There is a reason for this: it brings certainty to a complex issue, and ensures law and medical practice are aligned to deliver the best healthcare outcomes for women.
In Ireland, the 1983 Eighth Amendment to the Constitution has resulted in contradictions and conflict in sexual and reproductive healthcare. The Amendment has had a devastating impact on the lives of many women and their families. It means women die because they are denied the medical treatment they need; their health may be seriously compromised; they are forced to carry pregnancies to completion knowing the foetus cannot survive; and thousands each year leave Ireland to get pregnancy and abortion care abroad, often with no follow-up care when they return home.
For the past six months, we have seen a group of 99 citizens dissecting a range of information on medical, legal and social approaches to abortion. Not surprisingly, differences of opinion emerged during proceedings at the Citizens' Assembly. However, a constant thread through all discussions was recognition of the very real harm caused to women by the Eighth Amendment.