The number of submissions received by the Citizens’ Assembly on abortion has been “way beyond” what it expected, an assembly spokeswoman has said.
More than 13,500 submissions have been made on the issue of the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. By contrast, the Constitutional Convention only received 2,500 submissions across the eight subjects it considered, including 800 on the issue of same-sex marriage.
A random sample of 185 submissions will be made available for consideration this weekend on the issue of abortion, along with 115 postal submissions.
A spokeswoman for the assembly secretariat said many of the 13,500 submissions were very similar to each other and based on the same template, but that was to be expected given the range of views on the issue.
She said the submissions chosen for consideration by members of the assembly were a “genuine random sample”, and gave all the views across the spectrum.
She added that it was clear from the feedback of the 99 members of the assembly – all members of the public – that many have been reading the submissions already, as have the public judging by the traffic to the website.
The third weekend of the assembly will begin with members’ feedback about the submissions.
Chairwoman of the assembly Justice Mary Laffoy said she was prepared to devote a further weekend session to the submissions if members of the assembly found them useful.
On Saturday, the assembly will hear from
in New York about the availability of legal terminations in other jurisdictions, followed by Dr
, medical director of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. The service is one of the leading providers of abortion for Irish women every year.
She will be followed by Dr Peter Thompson, a consultant in maternal and foetal medicine at Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Foundation Trust.
The secretariat spokeswoman said the citizens involved in the assembly have requested they be told about what happens to women when they travel to the UK for a termination.
Dr Maeve Eogan, of the sexual assault unit in the Rotunda Hospital, and Noeline Blackwell, of the Rape Crisis Centre, will discuss the medical issues of pregnancy and rape. Tom O'Malley of NUI Galway will discuss the legal issues around rape.
On Sunday, Dr Joan McCarthy will present the pro-choice perspective on the ethical perspectives of reproductive autonomy. Dr Donal O'Mathuna from Dublin City University will do so from a pro-life perspective.
University College Dublin
will consider the issue of the medical profession and conscientious objection.
The secretariat spokeswoman said the issue of medical professionals conscientiously objecting to performing abortions had been raised “again and again” by members of the assembly.
The fourth weekend of the assembly, in the first week of March, will be devoted to hearing from women who have been directly affected by the Eighth Amendment, including those who have had abortions.
The assembly will decide on its final weekend – April 22th-23rd – what recommendations it will make to the Government on whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment.