Confusion and Lack of Clarity Affected Outcome of Citizens’ Assembly Vote Today, says Abortion Rights Campaign.

The campaign is concerned about the process which lead to vote to replace, rather than repeal, the 8th Amendment, but also welcomes the broad call for change by the members of the Citizens’ Assembly.

The Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) welcomes the news that 87% of the Citizens Assembly members want to broaden access to abortion in Ireland. This reflects what various polls have shown: the vast majority of people want to see a change in our laws.

However ARC are deeply concerned about the process that led to the citizens to vote by a narrow majority (56%) in favour of replacing, rather than repealing, the 8th Amendment. “The citizens were lead to believe that there was very little legal clarity as to what might happen after repeal, while replace was presented as a safer option. Citizens’ were unclear on the implications of repeal, and there was very little time allowed for debate.” said Linda Kavanagh of ARC.

“The aim of the national campaign to repeal the 8th is to reduce uncertainty around abortion, and give the Oireachtas legal clarity. Today’s honest attempts by the citizens to clarify our laws has simply resulted in more confusion, due to the incomplete information given to them.”

Ms Kavanagh continued: “In Ballot 3, members voted to introduce a new constitutional amendment that would ‘explicitly authorize the Oireachtas to legislate to address termination of pregnancy, any rights of the unborn, and any rights of the pregnant woman.’ While we we are pleased that the members have accepted the rightful role of the Oireachtas in the drafting of legislation, repealing article 40.3.3 would have the same effect without unnecessary additions to the constitution. Retention of the wording ‘the rights of the unborn’ is very concerning as we could well end up in a situation where the ‘right to life of the unborn’ remains in our constitution, effectively leaving the legal situation unchanged.”

ARC also raised concerns about the wording of tomorrow’s ballots: “There is no option to decriminalise abortion, nor do the ballot papers mention general risk to health (only ‘serious risk’), which means that whatever the recommendations to the Oireachtas committee are, they will not be compliant with international human rights standards.” Ms Kavanagh said.

“The heated nature of the discussion around wording today shows that the citizens are acutely aware of the importance of clear legislation on this issue. Their vote also reflects our view that the constitution is no place for the regulation of healthcare. We have seen the damage done from badly worded or vague legislation and we do not want to see history repeated”.

“The Abortion Rights Campaign will continue to call for a repeal of the 8th Amendment. Abortion is a healthcare issue and has no place in the constitution. Allowing pregnant people to exercise control over their own bodies is the norm in almost all other European countries. Ireland needs access to free, safe and legal abortion services. We hope that tomorrow’s recommendations reflect the reality of women’s lives and the services they need.”