Committee votes not to retain Eighth Amendment in full

Proposal made by SF, seconded by FF; McGrath, Mullen, Fitzpatrick vote against


The Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment has tonight voted not to retain Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution (another term for the amendment) in full.

The proposal was made by Sinn Féin and seconded by Fianna Fáil.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath, Senator Ronan Mullen and Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick voted against the proposal.

Two Fianna Fáil members, James Browne and Anne Rabbitte, abstained in the vote.

Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers said the vote demonstrated the status quo is not acceptable and change was required.

Earlier, the committee had been told 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.

Prof Arulkumaran said making abortion illegal serves only to promote illegal abortions.

Financial resources

“Those women with influence and financial resources will get it performed in a safe environment. Those who are poor with less influence will resort to unsafe methods.”

Prof Peter Boylan, the former master of Holles Street and chairman of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Ireland, addressed the committee, stressing the Eighth Amendment is “unworkable”.

Ireland and Malta are the only countries in the European Union which do not allow for terminations when there is a risk to the health of the mother, in the cases of rape, and in the cases of foetal abnormalities.

Prof Boylan said the Eighth Amendment was enacted 34 years ago when the world wide web and abortion pills had not been invented.

Without access to abortion in the United Kingdom, it is inevitable Ireland would have an epidemic of illegal abortions and a massive increase in maternal mortality, Mr Boylan added.

What recommendation to make

The Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment was this afternoon holding its first public discussion on what recommendation it would make on the position of the Eighth Amendment.

Several members of the committee submitted motions to recommend the repeal of the Eighth Amendment in a private session last week, rather than replacing or amending the article in the Constitution.

The constitutional amendment places an equal right to life on the pregnant mother and the unborn child.