The ICCL welcomes the decision of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution to recommend a referendum to directly repeal Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution. The ICCL also welcomes the Committee’s recommendations that abortion should be decriminalised and that legislation should provide for unrestricted access to abortion services in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The ICCL is very grateful to all of the members of the Committee for their hard work and dedication during this deliberative process. The Committee’s proceedings, and the previous work of the Citizens’ Assembly on this issue, demonstrate that careful consideration of the medical and legal evidence ultimately leads people with a broad range of views and opinions to conclude that the Eighth Amendment needs to be repealed. The fact that elected representatives with divergent personal beliefs on the issue have come to this joint conclusion strengthens the Committee’s recommendations.
“The recommendations of the Committee on repeal and unrestricted access up to 12 weeks represent a great step forward in protecting the rights of women and girls in Ireland”, said Liam Herrick, Executive Director of the ICCL. “And it has also shown that, like with the example of the Citizens’ Assembly, when reasonable people sit down with all the facts about abortion, notwithstanding their personal convictions about abortion, they have concluded that the law should be based on medical provision of abortion and the agency and autonomy of women”.
Mr. Herrick continued, “The ICCL has always been clear that a matter of reproductive healthcare, such as access to abortion care, has no place in the Constitution and should be considered a private matter between a woman and her doctor. International experience shows that, where access to abortion is legislated for in a very restrictive way, it frequently causes harm to health and serious distress to people seeking to access the service. Indeed, the Committee heard evidence that legislation which would require, for example, a woman to prove or even declare that she had become pregnant through rape would be likely to revictimise her”.
The ICCL opposed the Eighth Amendment in 1983 and predicted at that time the rights violations and legal ambiguities that would result. Over the intervening years, we have consistently called for repeal, including in our submissions to international human rights bodies. The ICCL recently published a summary of our position on the Eighth Amendment, in which we called for the decriminalisation of abortion and the straightforward repeal of the Eighth Amendment in order to “respect, protect and fulfil the rights of women and girls to health, dignity, bodily integrity and autonomy, and equal treatment”. We called for unrestricted access to abortion within a limited timeframe but also stated that there should be no restrictions where they would violate the right to health or the right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment. We highlighted that the current regime discriminates against women and girls who have fewer resources and those who depend on the State or others for care.