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22nd April 2017, 18:59:10 UTC

Organisation concerned at gaps in tomorrow’s draft ballot paper options

Amnesty International today welcomed the Citizens’ Assembly’s resounding vote against retaining the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, but expressed concern at the process which led to a majority, 50 votes to 39,  favouring amendment or replacement – not repeal – of the Eighth Amendment.

“Very late in this process, suggestions of uncertainty about the legal implications of repeal were introduced, with no room provided for proper debate. That the members voted to amend or replace the Eighth Amendment is perhaps not a surprise, but it is a concern. It heartening though that the Assembly voted for the more postive option in the third ballot, to give the Oireachtas unresticted power to legislate. However the wording in Ballot 3 unhelpfully includes wording on ‘rights of the unborn’, bringing new uncertainty to this already complex issue,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.

“Today’s vote for a replace or amend approach makes tomorrow’s ballot on the circumstances where abortions should be lawful all the more critical. Respect for women’s and girls’ human rights must be the goal. The approach chosen throws into sharper focus some key gaps in the draft ballot papers for tomorrow. It is particularly troubling that the members are not provided with a general risk to health ground upon which to vote. Having only a ‘serious risk to health’ ground does not even meet the minimum required under international human rights standards. What is before the Assembly  at present is unlikely therefore to lead to a recommendation to the Oireachtas that is human rights compliant. We also know from our independent Red C polling that 80% of people in Ireland believe that women’s health must be the priority in any reform of Ireland’s abortion laws. This gap needs to be addressed before the vote.

“As it currently stands, the risks to physical health and to mental health are to be voted on separately. The right to health in international human rights law does not discriminate between physical and mental health. Neither should Irish law. The ballot paper must be amended to reflect this. Also, the Assembly is not provided with the opportunity to vote on decriminalising abortion. Significantly, our independent polling found 67% of people in Ireland are in favour of decriminalisation of abortion,” said Mr O’Gorman.