Oireachtas committee on Eighth Amendment publishes 40-page report

Members say they cannot compel the Government to accept their recommendations

TDs and Senators vote by 14-6 in favour of removing the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution.

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Members of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment have insisted they cannot compel the Government to accept their recommendations.

The committee published its 40 page report on Wednesday outlining the decisions taken by members and the rationale for them.

The proposals include repealing the Eighth Amendment, which places the life of the unborn on an equal footing to the mother, and permitting abortions up to 12 weeks.

Chair of the committee Catherine Noone said the role of the committee should not be overestimated. Its job was to make recommendations and to be helpful to the Government, she added.

The committee can not compel the Government or the Houses of the Oireachtas to accept its proposals, Ms Noone added.

Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell, however, said the committee had given a very clear direction to Government.

None of their recommendations were reached easily and followed a huge amount of evidence given at the committee, Ms O’Connell added.

Speaking at the launch of the report, the Fine Gael TD said the current system was not fit for purpose and change was required. She would be working to convince her colleagues in Fine Gael of that.

The report outlined the committee’s belief that it was too problematic to legislate for abortion in certain circumstances.

The committee’s report says women find it difficult or impossible to report rape or sexual assault. It therefore believes it would be unreasonable to insist on reporting as a precondition to terminate a pregnancy that has resulted from rape or sexual assault.

“In view of the complexities inherent in legislating for the termination of pregnancy for reasons of rape or other sexual assault, the committee is of the opinion that it would be more appropriate to deal with this issue by permitting termination of pregnancy with no restriction as to reason provided that it is availed of through a GP-led service delivered in a clinical context as determined by law and licensing practice in Ireland with a gestational limit of 12 weeks.”

It agreed terminations should be made available in the cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

However it insisted it was the job of the Government to set gestational limits but said it should be guided by best medical practice.

The report says it is the committee’s belief that the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act has created significant difficulties, some of which can only be addressed if the committee’s recommendations are adopted.

The committee says it heard evidence that the certification and review process in the Act delayed women to an extent they bypassed the process and go abroad to have a termination.

Speaking at the launch of the report, members said it accepted it would be a difficult referendum campaign.

Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly said those in favour of repeal should not take it for granted insisting it will be hard to win the referendum.

This was echoed by Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer who said nobody can be presumptuous about the outcome of a referendum as there was still a campaign to be fought.

Three members of the committee Independent TD Mattie McGrath, Independent Senator Ronan Mullen and Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick – all of whom oppose abortion – did not sign off on the Oireachtas committee report as they did not agree with its findings.

They published their own “minority” report shortly afterwards, in which they widely criticised the work of the committee, its processes and its focus. They said an “unacceptably flawed process” had led “inevitably to cruel and unjust recommendations”.

Their report claimed there had been an “extraordinary imbalance” in the lists of “invited guests in favour of abortion”.

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