Oireachtas committee votes for abortion law change

Kate O’Connell says this is not end of the debate, but is a step in right direction

The Oireachtas committee examining Ireland’s abortion law has agreed that Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution should not be retained in full.

 
The Oireachtas committee examining

Ireland’s abortion law has agreed that Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution should not be retained in full.

The decision ensures the committee will recommend a referendum, which the Government has scheduled to take place next year. The proposal was made by Sinn Féin and supported by Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher. Fifteen committee members voted in favour, three voted against including Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick, and two Fianna Fáil members abstained.

The Eighth amendment, which inserted the article into the Constitution in 1983, guarantees to protect as far as practicable the equal right to life of the unborn and the mother.

Sent a signal

Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers said the decision sent a signal the status quo was no longer acceptable. Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell said women’s rights had been denied but this decision was a step in the right direction.

Independent Senator Rónán Mullen claimed it was a “bad, bad moment” for human dignity and the vote was a denial of human rights to the unborn.

The committee will now discuss six options for repealing or replacing the amendment. Among the avenues is a constitutional provision which allows for abortion in specified circumstances; repealing the amendment or publishing legislation to specify the grounds on which abortion could be permitted.

Earlier, the committee heard making abortion illegal only served to promote illegal abortions. Professor of obstetrics and gynaecology Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, who authored the report examining the death of Savita Halappanavar, said abortions can be life-saving in certain conditions.

Meanwhile, psychiatrist Prof Patricia Casey has withdrawn from an appearance at the committee next week. In a letter to the committee, Prof Casey, a well-known anti-abortion advocate, said: “I will not add any further credence to this deeply flawed process or to its inevitable and equally flawed conclusion that a referendum is required to repeal the 8th amendment without any meaningful Constitutional protection for the unborn child,” she wrote.