Latest: Committee never explored lives saved by Eighth Amendment, say Pro-Life campaign

The recommendations:

  • The Oireachtas has published the final report of the abortion Committee.
  • It recommends allowing terminations without restriction up to 12 weeks into the pregnancy.
  • The report calls for a repeal of the Eighth Amendment and that abortions should be decriminalised.
  • It also says abortion should be allowed in the cases of fatal foetal abnormality without term limits.
  • Other recommendations include access to free contraception, improvements to counselling and support services and there should be more sexual education in schools.
  • The committee's recommendations will be considered by the Oireachtas when it reconvenes in mid-January.

Update 3.55pm: A splinter group of the Oireachtas Committee on abortion says the process for discussing the issue was "unacceptably flawed".

Earlier the committee's final report recommended repealing the 8th Amendment and allowing abortion without restriction for 12 weeks.

Three members have called for a fresh Citizens' Assembly to examine alternatives to abortion, such as adoption.

Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick said the process had been flawed, and hit out at his party leader Leo Varadkar.

He said: "We're talking about a human being's life…and I don’t think that should go to a referendum…I'm disappointed that the Taoiseach of this country stated there should be a referendum even before the committee sat down."

Chairperson of the committee Catherine Noone said that despite the misgivings of some members, they had reached a majority view.

"They're quite entitled (to disagree)," she said. "This report has the majority support of the committee (and) the committee was representative of the members of the Oireachtas overall.

"It is my view that the view we have come to is representative of what the Irish people think too."

Update 3.35pm: The Pro Life Campaign have slammed the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment for presenting their report and recommendations "as though they exhaustively and thoroughly examined the Eighth Amendment".

The campaign have suggested, however, that the the reality is very different and said "this committee will be remembered as one of the most biased official groups ever to convene in Leinster House.”

Cora Sherlock of the Pro Life Campaign made her remarks outside the Dáil following the publication of the Oireachtas committee report recommending the dismantling of the Eighth Amendment.

At the event outside the Dáil hosted by the Love Both Project, where a paper chain representing people saved by the Eighth Amendment was displayed, Ms Sherlock went on: “To take one example – the Oireachtas Committee never heard from a single parent or family who say that their child is alive today as a direct result of the Eighth Amendment.

"There are thousands of families like this throughout Ireland but the committee showed no curiosity or interest in listening to any real life stories like this that challenged the case for doing away with the Eighth Amendment. Any committee that would behave in this manner cannot claim to be impartial or fair minded.”

Ms Sherlock went on to say that in many European and western countries one in five pregnancies end in abortion mainly for social reasons.

"The abortion rate for Irish women (carried out mainly in the Britain) is a small fraction of that, thanks to the Eighth Amendment. There are many stories of mothers who initially contemplated abortion, only to change their minds. Today, they cannot believe they ever entertained the idea of ending the life of the child who now means the world to them.

She continued: “The paper chain of people on display here today represent the 5,000+ children born each year, thanks to the Eighth Amendment. It is a conservative estimate based on the actuarial analysis of comparative abortion rates in culturally similar European countries. This independently produced report, commissioned by the Pro Life Campaign, was published in 2016.

“The 5,000+ saved annually include children whose parents are given more time to reflect; children diagnosed with disabilities that routinely lead to abortion in other countries; children with life limiting conditions who are welcomed into the world, however briefly; children whose fathers have a say and were given time to offer real support; children of mothers who are persuaded of the value of adoption.

“Laws change our attitudes and beliefs. When you legalise something you make it normal. And when you make something normal, you get more of it. That’s why the abortion rate in other countries is so surprisingly high. And that’s why there is no such thing as restrictive abortion."

Ms Sherlock wnet on to claim there were lots of other areas that the Oireachtas committee never bothered to examine.

"Ignoring the evidence of lives saved by the Eighth Amendment is just one of them. There is no excusing this omission and it rightly leaves the committee open to the charge of extreme bias and of having a predetermined outcome long before they ever concluded their work.”

Update 2pm: Amnesty describes Committee's recommendations on Eighth Amendment as 'important end to a momentous year'

The Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment has recommended repeal.

They have issued their final report this afternoon.

The main recommendations are: repeal the eighth amendment, allow abortion without restriction for up to 12 weeks into the pregnancy, and allow abortion in the cases of fatal foetal abnormality without any term restrictions.

The recommendations also say abortion should be decriminalised and should be allowed in circumstances supervised by a medical practitioner.

Committee member Brid Smith said the news is a big step forward.

"I think it is a historic moment to have an opportunity after all of these years to give more than two generations of men and women a say on this constitutional amendment," she said

There have been questions about whether these recommendations would be agreed to in the Dáil.

Committee Chair Catherine Noone said it is time to get over divisions and let people have their say.

"I think it is important for the members of the Oireachtas to re-engage with the evidence. I don't think it is helpful to anyone to say 'I'm pro-choice or pro-life'," she said.

"I don't know what that means anymore because I don't know how you could say that somebody who is pro-choice isn't pro-life, or someone who is pro-life isn't pro-choice," she added.

Not all the committee members agree on the report.

Mattie McGrath, Ronan Mullen and Peter Fitzpatrick refused to sign off on it and will issue their own minority report this afternoon.

Labour TD Jan O'Sullivan said their view is very much in the minority.

Welcoming the recommendation of a straight repeal, she added that the she believed "the current situation is simply untenable".

“This simpliciter recommendation, which I put forward on behalf of the Labour Party and was accepted by the Committee, recognises that the issue of abortion does not belong in the Constitution," she said.

“As someone who campaigned to oppose the amendment in 1983, I believe that the Irish people deserve to have their say on the issue next year.

“Government must move quickly and give clarity as to when a referendum will be held, setting a clear roadmap for the New Year regarding the preparatory work that will need to be done.

“We in the Labour Party will campaign in a dignified way, respectful of all views, and with womens’ healthcare needs at the centre," she added.

The committee's report will be debated by the Oireachtas when they return from the Christmas holidays, with a referendum on the Eighth Amendment likely in May or June next year

The move has been welcomed by Amnesty International.

“Today’s report is an important end to a momentous year. With this Committee and the Citizens’ Assembly, we have finally had a meaningful consideration on how to reform Ireland’s harsh abortion laws," said Executive Director Colm O'Gorman.

"Once again, we have seen that when people have an opportunity to examine abortion in detail, guided by the evidence of legal and medical experts from around the world, expanding access to abortion services in Ireland is the logical, compassionate conclusion."

“TAs the Committee’s report notes, anything other than simple repeal could have a ‘profound, and relatively unprecedented, effect’. Therefore anything less than its full repeal could cast serious doubt over future legislation’s compliance with Ireland’s obligations under international human rights law.

"Some gaps remain, including in how to address pregnancies with a diagnosis of severe rather than fatal foetal impairment. However, the Department of Health now has a clear blueprint for a new legal framework for access to abortion. It must ensure that these recommendations are reflected in the legislation due to be published early next year,” he added.

Update 12pm:  Committee recommends allowing terminations without restriction up to 12 weeks into pregnancy

The Oireachtas has published the final report of the abortion Committee. 

It recommends allowing terminations without restriction up to 12 weeks into the pregnancy. 

The report calls for a repeal of the Eighth Amendment and that abortions should be decriminalised. 

Other recommendations include access to free contraception, improvements to counselling and support services and there should be more sexual education in schools.

Earlier: Eighth Amendment Committee to present final recommendations today

The Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment will present its final report today.

The report will recommend allowing abortion without restriction for up to 12 weeks into the pregnancy.

The final report of the committee will outline the recommendations they voted on last week.

They will say the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which recognises the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn child, should be repealed.

The main recommendation was that abortion without restriction be allowed for 12 weeks into the pregnancy.

They voted it should also be allowed in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities and when there is a serious risk to the health of the mother.

Not all the committee members agreed and a minority report will be issued by TDs Mattie McGrath and Peter Fitzpatrick, along with Senator Ronan Mullen this morning.

The Taoiseach says he wants a referendum on the issue in May, but despite the restrictions of collective Cabinet responsibility, he will allow individual Ministers to vote against holding a referendum if they so choose.

The report is being launched at noon and will be debated by the Oireachtas when they return from Christmas holidays on January 16.


 

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