Responding to the news that the Irish government is to schedule a referendum on the Eighth Amendment next year, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland Colm O’Gorman said:
“The Irish government has finally confirmed that it will schedule a referendum to allow people in Ireland an opportunity to vote on the Eighth Amendment in May or June of 2018. This is a welcome step. The Eighth Amendment is the single greatest impediment to expanded access to abortion in Ireland and it must be repealed without delay.
It is long past time that Ireland introduce a legal and medical framework for abortion which respects, protects and fulfils the human rights of women and girls. Women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights are a core part of the international human rights legal framework. The Government’s commitment to hold a referendum is welcome, but it must also put forward a proposal for constitutional change which fully respects and protects the human rights of women and girls in Ireland.
Our 2015, She Is Not a Criminal report documented the intolerable human rights violations which arise from the Eighth Amendment. The government has been instructed to reform these laws by five UN human rights treaty bodies. It has been found by the UN to have inflicted cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment on two women by making them travel abroad for abortions. Every day, women and girls in Ireland are denied access to this essential healthcare service.
The Citizens’ Assembly, convened by the Irish government, has set out a roadmap for reform that is broadly compliant with international human rights law. The Joint Oireachtas Committee must take this report as the minimum blueprint for its work. It must fully translate the report’s recommendations into action, with women’s health and human rights at its core. The Government’s referendum wording must be human rights compliant.
In particular, the Committee’s recommendations on the referendum and the framework to replace the Eighth Amendment must avoid the barriers or grounds-based legislation brings. It is unlikely that adding further ‘grounds’ to the current law would facilitate meaningful access to abortion. The Citizens’ Assembly considered international human rights standards, international public health evidence and the experience of other countries and recommended that Ireland provide access to abortion on request, at least during early pregnancy. Women and girls must also have access to abortion in later pregnancy, as required under international human rights law.”