By Susan Gately - 01 July, 2017
The Oireachtas Committee charged with considering the Citizens’ Assembly’s recommendations on abortion “must not engage in a repeat of the farce that happened at meetings of the Assembly itself,” the Pro Life Campaign (PLC) has said.
The PLC made its comments following the release on Thursday of the Report of the Citizens’ Assembly on Abortion, presented to the special Oireachtas Committee tasked with considering its recommendations.
In the report, the Chair of the Assembly – former Supreme Court Justice Mary Laffoy – presented the substantive recommendations of the 99 members of the Assembly. These were that Article 40.3.3°: should not be retained in full (87 per cent); should be replaced or amended (56 per cent); and should be replaced with a constitutional provision that explicitly authorises the Oireachtas to legislate to address termination of pregnancy, any rights of the unborn, and any rights of the pregnant woman (57 per cent).
“Put simply, the members voted that they wanted to remove Article 40.3.3° from the Constitution, and for the avoidance of doubt, to replace it with a provision in the Constitution, which would make it clear that termination of pregnancy, any rights of the unborn, and any rights of the pregnant woman are matters for the Oireachtas,” wrote Justice Laffoy.
The Assembly made further recommendations on abortion legislation, with 64 per cent recommending that the termination of pregnancy without restriction should be lawful. Of these, 8 per cent recommended that there would be no restriction to gestational age.
A majority of members recommended 12 reasons for which termination of pregnancy should be lawful in Ireland, including risk to the physical health of the woman (79 per cent), risk to the mental health of the woman (78 per cent), and socio-economic reasons (72 per cent), as well as abortion following rape and for foetal abnormality, whether or not it is likely to result in death before or shortly after birth.
“The Citizens’ Assembly voted for abortion on numerous grounds that they had never discussed as a group or sought expert advice on beforehand,” commented Dr Ruth Cullen of the Pro Life Campaign. “Maybe that’s how politics operates on other issues, but to treat the right to life in such a casual, off-hand and disrespectful way is appalling.”
She continued: “Think of the impact down the road that these decisions could have for an unborn baby whose life hangs in the balance and has his or her life ended all because of a vote taken on a whim at the Citizens’ Assembly in Malahide, without any prior debate.”
The clear lesson from the Citizens’ Assembly, she said, is that “once you start categorising which unborn babies are worthy and unworthy of protection, you are effectively saying no unborn baby has any intrinsic value.”
Dr Cullen noted that there was no discussion at the Citizens’ Assembly about positive alternatives to abortion or the countless lives saved by Ireland’s Eighth Amendment. “How did this come to pass?” she asked.
“Before considering anything else, the new Oireachtas Committee on abortion has a responsibility to investigate how the Citizens’ Assembly became such a campaigning body and abandoned even the pretence of balance. The new Committee’s credibility rests on whether it corrects this imbalance.”
Meanwhile, Declan Ganley is to address the All Ireland Rally for Life in Dublin city centre today. Participants at the rally will gather at Parnell Square at 2.00pm and then walk through the city centre to the Dáil.
The route of the march is from Parnell Square, through O’Connell Street, along Eden Quay, crossing the Liffey at Talbot Memorial Bridge, along City Quay, to Lombard Street and on to Merrion Square, where the main presentations will occur.
Those addressing the rally include Karen Gaffney, a disability rights campaigner; entrepreneur and founder of Libertas, Declan Ganley; Vicky Wall of Every Life Counts; Isabel Vaughan-Spruce from March for Life UK; Carolyn Johnson from Gianna Care; and Bernadette Smyth of Precious Life.
“This is the most important rally for life ever,” Niamh Uí Bhroin from the Life Institute told CatholicIreland, “because it is our public stand to Save the Eighth – the real Citizen’s Assembly.”
The All Ireland Rally for Life is organised by the Life Institute, Youth Defence and Precious Life.