Article 40.3.3 should be repealed simpliciter - Eighth Amendment Committee report

Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution should be repealed simpliciter, according to the final report of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eight Amendment which was published today, Wednesday 20 December 2017.

The Committee acknowledged that the current contsitutional provision prohibiting  the termination of pregnancy in Ireland is unfit for purpose and that constitutional reform is necessary. They have voted in favour of a referendum on the matter.

In arriving at its decision, the Committee analysed the recommendations of the Citizen’s Assembly and took into consideration expert legal and medical evidence provided to the Committee. This included:

· The impact of Article 40.3.3 in the provision of health and medical services to pregnant women, particularly relating to the timing of critical clinical decision-making in saving a woman’s life;
· Ireland’s international human rights obligations as evidenced in the cases of Mellet v. Ireland and Whelan v. Ireland, in which the United Nations Human Rights Committee found Ireland to be in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). As well as directing compensation and counselling for the women concerned, the Human Rights Committee has called for Ireland to change its laws to allow for termination in cases of fatal foetal abnormality;
· The reality that thousands of Irish women are already accessing abortion services each year: Legally, by way of travel to the UK and, to a lesser extent, the Netherlands and other jurisdictions, and illegally, by way of online telemedicine services and the abortion pill.

Other recommendations include:

· termination of pregnancy should be lawful where the life or health of the woman is at risk and that a distinction should not be drawn between the physical and mental health of the woman,
· provision for gestational limits for termination of pregnancy should be guided by the best available medical evidence and be provided for in legislation, and
· any assessments in relation to the termination of pregnancy where the life or the health of the woman is at risk should be made by no fewer than two specialist physicians
· that it shall be lawful to terminate a pregnancy without gestational limit where the unborn child has a foetal abnormality that is likely to result in death before or shortly after birth.
· the law should not provide for the termination of pregnancy on the ground that the unborn child has a significant foetal abnormality where such abnormality is not likely to result in death before or shortly after birth.
· the law should be amended to permit termination of pregnancy with no restriction as to reason provided that it is availed of through a GP-led service delivered in a clinical context as determined by law and licencing practice in Ireland with a gestational limit of 12 weeks.

Committee Chair Senator Catherine Noone said: “It is fair to say that the issue of abortion remains one of the most divisive issues in Irish life and people hold deeply held views on the matter. To that end the work of the Joint Committee was never about one side or the other. It was about women’s health and how best to ensure swift and safe support in sensitive and difficult cases. Termination of pregnancy and indeed continuation of pregnancy is not a black or white issue. Every case is unique.

“What is clear to me is that two inclusive processes - one made up of citizens, the other of politicians - have now concluded their deliberations and have both recommended a change in our constitution, some access to terminations and a greater focus on women's health and their experiences.

“What we are proposing is a major change, and it will take time for people to consider and understand how we came to these recommendations. Most proposals have cross-party support which is of great significance and the views expressed in this Report reflect where we now are as a society. I commend the Members for their commitment given that this is a topic that is far from easy and I say that in respect of all views which were reflected in the Committee. I hope our work will assist the wider membership of the Houses of the Oireachtas and ultimately the people in a referendum.

“I want thank the expert witnesses who gave testimony and to the parents who told us their personal stories. They have done the state some service.

“Finally I want to acknowledge the work of the Citizens’ Assembly for its constructive input into the debate on this issue.”

Read the report here: .

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