Amnesty International has welcomed yesterday’s vote by the Joint Oireachtas Committee not to retain the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. The cross-party Committee voted overwhelming in favour of recommending that the Eighth Amendment not be retained in full, with three against and two abstentions.
“We welcome the Committee’s vote to recommend that the Eighth Amendment not be retained in full as an important first step. We hope this will be followed with recommendations towards fulfilling the human rights of all women and girls in Ireland. The Eighth Amendment is the root cause of the serious human rights violations Ireland’s abortion law causes. It must be fully repealed. 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. Any proposed constitutional change must be human rights compliant, allowing for women’s health and autonomous decision-making to be at the centre of decisions about their medical care. Importantly, several witnesses before the Committee have said that abortion must be fully decriminalised. This is an essential component of a human rights compliant framework.
“As the Joint Oireachtas Committee continues its work, it must comply with international human rights standards, international public health evidence and the experience of other countries. The well-informed Citizens’ Assembly considered these factors and recommended that Ireland provide access to abortion on request during early pregnancy, and in later pregnancy as required under international human rights law. In particular, the Committee’s recommendations on the legal framework to replace the Eighth Amendment must avoid the barriers grounds-based legislation brings. It is very unlikely that adding further ‘grounds’ to the current law would facilitate meaningful access to abortion. This is why the Assembly’s recommendation for access to abortion on request must be heeded. The Government must put forward a proposal for constitutional change which enables the creation of a legal and policy framework for abortion that fulfils the human rights of women and girls in Ireland. For this to happen, the Eighth Amendment must be removed in its entirety,” said Fiona Crowley, Research and Legal Manager with Amnesty International Ireland.
In June 2015, Amnesty International Ireland published the ‘She Is Not a Criminal’ report which documented the human rights violations arising from the Eighth Amendment. The government has been instructed to reform Ireland’s abortion law, which is among the most restrictive in the world, by five UN human rights treaty bodies. It was found by the UN Human Rights Committee to have inflicted cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment on two women by making them travel abroad to access abortion services.