Committee members must reveal position on abortion law by Friday

Politicians due to produce Eighth Amendment report on December 15th

Chair of the committee Catherine Noone said the members had made a decision to hear only from experts in this area and not from advocacy groups. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons.

Chair of the committee Catherine Noone said the members had made a decision to hear only from experts in this area and not from advocacy groups. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons.

 

Members of the Oireachtas committee examining the Eighth Amendment must outline their position on proposed changes to abortion laws by Friday.

The committee has been advised of the decision-making process ahead of the publication of its final report on December 20th.

Members have already recommended Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution should not be retained in full.

In an email to the committee, the clerk Ted McEnery advises members to examine each of the proposals made by the Citizens Assembly ahead of a meeting on Wednesday.

The assembly recommended abortion should be allowed in a range of circumstances including terminations up to 12 weeks with no restriction.

Members of the committee will be asked if they accept the proposals by the assembly and whether each of the recommendations is a valid ground for the termination of a pregnancy.

If it accepts the circumstances agreed by the assembly, members must then consider if they believe the gestation time recommended by the assembly to be appropriate.

The committee members have until Friday to submit any amendments to the assembly recommendations including removing or amending gestational limits or to propose a different outcome altogether.

The timeframe allows for a meeting on Wednesday, where these matters will be discussed.

Senior counsel will be made available to members to advise them on the Constitutional effect of their decisions.

Votes will begin from Wednesday 13th December and a draft report will be prepared by the Friday 15th December.

In addition members will be asked to decide whether it wants to make recommendations on the decriminalisation of abortion.

The meeting this week will co-incide with a planned protest by Renua, who is alleging the committee is biased.

Party leader John Leahy said he has sought to engage on numerous occasions with the members but claimed his efforts proved futile.

The Pro Life campaign chair Cora Sherlock also criticised the committee for failing to offer balance and set aside the evidence of anti-abortion experts.

Ms Sherlock added: “The tragedy of how this committee has conducted itself cannot be explained away with one excuse after another. The facts are that 27 or 28 pro-repeal witnesses were invited to come before the committee and just five pro-life witnesses, two of whom were sent an invitation after the committee had already voted for abortion.”

In response, chair of the committee Catherine Noone said the members had made a decision to hear only from experts in this area and not from advocacy groups.

Political parties are represented at the committee, Ms Noone added.