Citizens’ Assembly urged to recommend full removal of Eighth Amendment

– In advance of Assembly’s final recommendation, Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment highlights why “the Constitution is no place for the regulation of women’s healthcare” –

The Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment has called on the Citizens’ Assembly to recommend full removal of the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution.

The Assembly has been considering the issue of abortion over the past six months, and is due to make its final recommendations this weekend (22nd and 23rd April).

Commenting today (17.04.17), Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, said: “In most countries, access to abortion is covered by legislation and medical regulations, not in constitutions.  There is a reason for this: it ensures law and medical practice are aligned to deliver the best healthcare outcomes for women.

“Our Constitution was never meant to regulate healthcare or other policy areas; it was meant to set out the fundamental principles on which our State operates.  Whatever one thinks about abortion itself, the Constitution isn’t a suitable instrument with which to address it.  Legal and medical experts agree that the Constitution is inflexible and cumbersome because it can only be changed by referendum and, by its nature, it’s not a useful tool for addressing complex social questions.

“A woman’s pregnancy and reproductive health can require very complex decisions.  These should be a matter for the woman, her family and her doctor alone.  No constitutional wording can allow for the complexities of such decisions.”

Ms. Smyth said the Eighth Amendment has resulted in contradictions and conflict within Ireland’s sexual and reproductive healthcare services.

“The Amendment has had a devastating impact on the lives of many women and their families,” she said.  “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.

“Putting this issue into the Constitution in the first place distorted our legislative process and made it almost impossible to achieve even minor change.  We urge the Citizens’ Assembly to recommend, at the very least, restoring the normal processes of democratic decision-making by reversing the mistake that was made in 1983.

“Our member organisations look forward to a recommendation that the Eighth Amendment must be deleted from the Constitution and that no replacement amendment should be proposed.”