Saturday 18 November 2017

Does this move mean that Ireland is closer to legalising abortion?

By Prudence Wade

A Citizens’ Assembly has voted to relax the country’s strict laws.

A special committee set up to deliberate on Ireland’s abortion regime has made a landmark call for the procedure to be allowed without restriction.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What is Ireland’s current stance on abortion?

Since 2014, a pregnancy can only be terminated under the Protection Of Life During Pregnancy Act if there is a risk to a woman’s life, including from suicide.

What is the Citizens’ Assembly?

A randomly selected group of 99 members of the public and chaired by Supreme Court Judge Mary Laffoy.

How did they vote?

They voted in favour of terminations in cases of rape, foetal abnormalities including non-fatal conditions, a risk to the mother’s health and for socio-economic reasons.

The committee also called for no distinction to be drawn between the woman’s health issue being physical or mental.

Some 78% were in favour of allowing abortion if a woman’s health was at risk from the pregnancy, 89% in cases of rape and fatal foetal abnormality, 80% in cases of non-fatal foetal abnormality and 72% in favour of allowing the procedure if a woman wishes to express socio-economic reasons.

What happens next?

Laffoy will include the results in a report being submitted to the Irish parliament in late June with an onus on politicians to introduce new laws.

“The recommendations you have made certainly have called for a change to the status quo,” she said.

Laffoy paid tribute to the work of the assembly members over the last few months and also offered a special note of thanks to women who came to the meetings to give personal evidence about how they were affected by abortion laws.

She also said her report would include the views of “dissenting voices”.

How has the news been received?

As the Assembly results were announced Ireland’s most senior Catholic cleric, Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, gave a homily at Knock Shrine reiterating total opposition to the constitutional change.

“Demands to quash and abolish this amendment go against the good news that the life of every person is sacred and inviolable, irrespective of the stage or state of that life, from the first moment of conception until the moment of natural death,” he said.

However, others are more pleased with what could be the country moving closer to legalising abortion.

Whilst it does not have any impact on the country’s current laws, it is an interesting indicator of public opinion which may very well have an impact on future policy.

Press Association

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