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Ireland: Committee votes “not to retain the Eighth Amendment in Full”

19 October 2017


The Committee has been called "a disgrace" and "deeply unbalanced".

A pro-life senator called the vote "a disgrace" 

The Oireachtas Committee currently considering the Eighth Amendment to Ireland's constitution, which protects the equal right to life of mother and unborn child, yesterday voted not to retain it in full.

No regard for rights of unborn

The motion was proposed by Jonathan O’Brien, of Sinn Féin and seconded by Billy Kelleher, of Fianna Fáil, both TDs for Cork North–Central. It was passed by 15 votes to 3, with 2 abstentions. 

Senator Ronan Mullen and Deputy Mattie McGrath, who last week threatened to resign from the committee because of it's pro-abortion bias, strongly opposed the motion. Senator Ronan Mullen called the vote and the committee "a disgrace" with no regard for the human rights of the unborn. Today, leading psychiatrist Patricia Casey announced she was pulling out of appearing in front of the committee, saying the process has become "deeply imbalanced."

Using the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar

The vote came after Dr Peter Boylan of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists told the Committee that Ireland would have an "epidemic of illegal abortions" and a "massive increase" in maternal mortality" if women were unable to access abortion in the UK. Kitty Holland, the journalist who first broke the news of the death of Savita Halappanavar (and later admitted the story was "muddled"), reports that Dr Boylan also said that the Eighth Amendment "played a major role" in the tragedy. 

Dr Boylan has claimed in the past that Ireland's abortion laws prevented the correct treatment of Mrs Halappanavar, and was contradicted by top experts in Obstetrics and in Emergency Medicine. Professor Stephen Cusack, who is professor of Emergency Medicine in University College Cork, tweeted at the time that "Dr Boylan would like us all to think that an abortion would have solved the problem. Not so simple. Far too many things went wrong." (The Life Institute have a full account of the series of events that led to her tragic death)

What next?

The Committee is now considering 6 legal options as alternatives to the Eighth Amendment, ranging from deleting the article entirely, to deleting it and replacing it in the constitution with legislation. Members have been told that they cannot recommend a multi-option ballot paper, which would see the public asked to vote on a number of descending options,  in the upcoming referendum, as it would be unconstitutional under current referenda rules.

News in brief:

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