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Amnesty International applauds Citizens’ Assembly’s momentous call for human rights compliant abortion laws

    April 24, 2017

    Amnesty International Ireland Release

    Overwhelming vote for complete constitutional and legal reform an important vindication of women’s and girls’ human rights

    Amnesty International today applauded the Citizens’ Assembly’s resounding vote against retaining the Eighth Amendment to Ireland’s Constitution, and its vote to give the Oireachtas unrestricted power to legislate for abortion. It described the Assembly’s two-thirds majority vote for access to abortion on request at least in early pregnancy, and even greater majority votes for later gestational limits in specific circumstances, an important vindication of women’s and girls’ human rights.

    “The outcome of this final session is a truly momentous leap forward for the human rights of women and girls in Ireland. No longer can this issue be painted as controversial or divisive. The Assembly’s overwhelming (64%) backing for abortion on request at least in early pregnancy is a testament to their compassion and good sense. This is indeed the best way to safeguard women and girls’ rights. This, accompanied by later gestational limits in specific circumstances which they also backed, paves the way for the introduction of human rights compliant laws on abortion,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.

    “Today’s vote bears out independent polling we commissioned from Red C, which found that 80 % of people in ireland want women’s health to be the priority in reform of Ireland’s abortion laws. Four out of five of the members want a risk to a woman’s health to be a ground for lawful access to abortion. Nine out of ten want a serious risk to a women’s health to permit abortion access, with the majority wanting this without gestional limits. We are also heartened that the Assembly voted against discriminating against women whose mental health as opposed to physical health is at risk.”

    “The root cause of the harm caused to so many thousands of women and girls is the Eighth Amendment. Yesterday’s ballots at the Citizens’ Assembly amount to a resounding call for its complete removal from Bunreacht na hÉireann. The Assembly has effectively recommended the removal not only of the Eighth Amendment, but of all constitutional restrictions on legisating for access to abortion in Ireland.

    “The ball is now firmly back in the Government’s court. The Assembly has voted that the Oireachtas should be exclusively empowered to legislate on abortion, and that this legislation must be expansive. The Government must immediately schedule a referendum to make this happen, and quickly arrive at the appropriate wording.

    “The special Oireachtas Committee established to consider and report on today’s recommendations must quickly come up with solid solutions. We need to see proposals for legislation on access to and information about abortion that will, as the Assembly has dictated, finally respect women’s and girls’ human rights. Today’s vote by the Assembly on abortion access options has set out a comprehensive mandate for law reform. However, key gaps in today’s ballot paper must also be plugged by the Oireachtas Committee. For instance, abortion must be fully decriminalised, if Ireland is to comply with its human rights obligations. Yet, the Assembly was not provided with the opportunity to vote on decriminalisation.

    “Very late in this process, suggestions of uncertainty about the legal implications of simply repealing the Eighth Amendment were introduced, with insufficient time provided for proper debate. The wording in Ballot 3 yesterday also unhelpfully includes wording on ‘rights of the unborn’, bringing new uncertainty to this already complex issue. These are matters the Government and Oireachtas Committe must now grapple with and resolve. The Assembly has done its job commendably, and now the executive and legislative arms of government must do theirs,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.

    “Today, the Assembly members deserve our gratitude. They gave enormously of their time and energy over many long sessions. This weekend they showed firm determination to do their very best for women’s and girls’ health and human rights. We earnestly hope that the Government respects this process by moving forward with decisive action now. It is time to end the daily violations of women’s and girls’ human rights, and the Assembly has set out a mandate to achieve that. The Government must now immediately commit to a timeframe for a referendum to remove the Eighth Amendment. There can be no more excuses and no more delays,” said Colm O’Gorman.