Vote to repeal 8th Amendement will not lead to abortion on demand, commitee hears

Any vote to repeal the eighth amendment will not lead to "abortion on demand" due to the separate legal and political hurdles such a result is almost certain to face an Oireachtas Commitee has heard, writes Political Correspondent Fiachra Ó Cionnaith.

Three independent legal experts made the prediction as a number of them separately said Government should publish any legislation that would replace the eighth amendment before the referendum takes place.

The comments were made during the latest meeting of the cross-party Oireachtas committee on the eighth amendment.

Speaking at the committee Trinity college assistant professor of law Dr David Kenny; Birmingham University’s global legal studies’ chair Prof Fiona de Londras; and senior counsel Mary O’Toole said unrestricted access to abortion may not result from a repeal referendum vote.

The legal experts said while the public may decide to remove article 40.3.3 from the constitution, the reality is that because the decision could face a legal challenge and due to the political "ethos" of the Oireachtas unrestricted access to abortion may not be the result.

"I think it is very unlikely abortion on demand will be the outcome. I think the whole ethos of Ireland’s approach makes it unlikely. So, no, I do not think it [a repeal referendum vote] will lead to abortion on demand," Ms O’Toole said, with Prof de Londras saying unrestricted access is "not inevitable at all".

While the comments are likely to cause some concern for those in favour of a repeal vote, the legal experts said their individual views are based on the fact any referendum result is likely to face immediate high court challenge and dismissed suggestions a rare rule could be passed blocking any cases.

In addition, the legal experts said the reality is the Oireachtas would still have to legislate for new laws after a repeal vote, and that the Dáil’s "ethos" means unrestricted access to abortion would still be unlikely.

During the same meeting, Dr Kenny and Prof de Londras also told the committee yesterday that Government should consider publishing any legislation that would replace the eighth amendment before next year’s referendum on the divisive issue.

Asked during a question and answer session if he would be in favour of any potential legislation to replace the eighth amendment being published before a vote on its future, Dr Kenny said "I agree that would be extremely helpful" as it would allow the public to be fully aware of what the vote outcome would mean.

Meanwhile, in an hour-long private meeting before yesterday’s public discussions, Independent TD Mattie McGrath called for a pro-life DVD of an abortion taking place - which has been promoted by campaigner Tim Jackson - should be shown in public session.

The request was rejected by the committee, with Mr McGrath criticising the decision during public session.

KEYWORDS: 8th Amendment


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