The eighth amendment committee voted on Wednesday to support the repealing of the eighth amendment without replacement. The committee also voted on a number of other options that had been put forward by the citizens’ assembly.
The eighth amendment committee was established to consider the citizens’ assembly report and the recommendations that were put forward regarding the eighth amendment by the citizens’ assembly. The committee was made up of members of the Dáil and the Seanad.
14 members of the committee voted in favour of repeal, with 6 members voting against and the chair abstaining. If the eighth amendment is repealed and not replaced this would mean that restrictions on abortions would not be included in the constitution. The specifics could still be written into law.
Just two of the recommendations proposed by the citizens’ assembly were rejected and they were for abortion for socio-economic reasons and abortion in the case of a non-fatal foetal abnormality. The decriminalisation of abortion was supported by all but three on the committee. Independent TD Mattie McGrath, Independent Senator Rónán Mullen, and Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick voted against it. The chair, Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noonan, abstained from voting on most recommendations but supported decriminilisation and voted against unrestricted access to abortion up to 22 weeks.
The committee voted in favour of unrestricted abortion access up to 12 weeks. This passed with 12 votes in favour, 5 against, and 4 abstaining. Three of the four people who abstained were members of Sinn Féin and the fourth was the chair.
Midwives for Choice welcomed the results of the committee vote. Chair of the group Philomena Canning said “This is an Amendment that denies women – who want the best for their babies as well as themselves – the freedom to refuse unwanted medical intervention during pregnancy, labour and birth. We now hope that the government will step up to its responsibility to ensure the human rights of all pregnant women are protected by calling on the people of Ireland to repeal the 8th Amendment.” AIMS Ireland, which is a consumer led organisation which supports women in the Irish maternity system, echoed these sentiments stating “Today’s outcome marks another important step towards the standard of maternity care that women want and need.”
The Abortion Rights Campaign have said: “Committee findings [are] an important step, but it’s a long road to a referendum”. While Strike4Repeal warns: “Should it become clear during the Dail debate on the Joint Oireachtas Committee’s recommendations that the government will ignore this demand, we will shut down the country in a national strike for repeal called at a week’s notice.”
Pro-Life groups were displeased with the Committee’s vote on the Amendment. “[The] Committee demonstrates frightening disregard for right to life”, states Cora Sherlock, on behalf of the campaign. People in the Pro Life Campaign have expressed disppointment that the committee failed to invite groups who represent families that say that the Eight Amendment saved their child’s life. However, she remains positive that the Oireachtas Committee’s vote won’t distract or knock them off course in defending the Eight Amendment.
The results of this vote will be put in a report which will be put to the Oireachtas. The final report is to be published on December 20th. It is expected that there will be a referendum in May or June of 2018.