The Government must ensure it times the referendum on repeal of the Eighth Amendment to facilitate full and active participation by all sectors of society. That’s according to the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, which was responding today (29.07.17) to media reports on the timing and focus of future referendums.
The Coalition also stressed the need for the referendum to be “standalone”, focusing solely on the issue of abortion.
Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition, said: “Media reports that the Taoiseach is looking at June or July of next year for the referendum are extremely worrying, as are indications that the Government may decide to hold more than one referendum at the same time.
“Repealing the Eighth Amendment is far too important and complex an issue to be bundled together with other potential referendum topics.
“Furthermore, holding this referendum during the summer months – when many students are travelling or overseas – would effectively mean disenfranchising thousands of young people. Repeal of the Eighth Amendment is a vital issue for their future and for the future of the country. The timing of the referendum must be carefully considered to ensure it allows for full and active participation by all age-groups and all sectors of society.”
Ms. Smyth said she hopes the Government will engage in further consultation before the timing of the referendum is agreed and would welcome the setting of a date for the referendum as quickly as possible.
“We really want to stress the point to Government also that this needs to be a standalone referendum,” she said.
“The people of Ireland have been waiting over 30 years for their chance to repeal this harmful Amendment. Opinion polls show the public want this issue addressed in a timely and definitive way, while a range of EU and UN bodies have sternly criticised Ireland’s failings and have urged the Government to reform Ireland’s abortion laws.”
Citizens’ Assembly delivers report on Eighth Amendment to Oireachtas
The publication of the Citizen’s Assembly report on the Eighth Amendment has been welcomed by the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment. The Citizens’ Assembly recommended sweeping reform of Ireland’s abortion laws by a large majority vote in April of this year.
Commenting on the publication of the report, Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, said: “The publication of the Citizens’ Assembly report today again brings to the fore the fact that a majority of the Assembly, representing a cross section of the Irish electorate, voted for root and branch reform to abortion laws in Ireland.
“The Citizens’ Assembly clearly reflected a widespread understanding of Ireland’s highly restrictive and punitive abortion laws, the plight that Irish women find themselves in when they require an abortion, and the inhumane treatment they are consequently subjected to. Their recommendations could not be clearer: healthcare services must meet women’s real reproductive health needs, including the provision of full abortion services. In fact, a large majority of the Citizens’ Assembly voted for the provision of abortion without restriction within specified time limits.
“We’re calling on the Joint Oireachtas Committee now to respect the recommendations of the Citizen’s Assembly and to put an end to the inhumane treatment of women. There have been distressing cases brought to light in recent weeks, including the sectioning of a young girl, and a woman forced to travel to access abortion after being diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality. There can be no more political delays – every day, 10 women travel abroad to access abortions. The Oireachtas Committee must simply get on with their job and recommend a referendum on the Eighth Amendment be held as soon as possible. The Eighth Amendment must be removed in its entirety from the Constitution.”
Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment invited to address several European meetings this week
Ireland’s failure to provide safe and legal abortion services will be highlighted by the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment at a number of high-level European meetings over the coming week.
Tomorrow, Thursday, 21st June at 4pm, Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition, will brief #ALLofUS, an influential cross-party group of MEPs working to secure the right to safe and legal abortion worldwide.
The briefing will focus on the current situation in Ireland and the role the European Parliament can play in supporting the Coalition’s advocacy work.
It will take place at the European Parliament, Rue Wiertz, Brussels, ASP 5 G 375.
Earlier tomorrow, Ms. Smyth will meet with International Planned Parenthood Europe. She will participate in a roundtable discussion with representatives of Sensoa, the Flemish Centre for Sexual Health, and LUNA, the umbrella organisation of Flemish abortion centres. The event will begin at 12.30pm at the IPPF EN office, Rue Royale 55, 1000 Brussels.
Tomorrow evening, Ms. Smyth will be the guest speaker at an event organised by the Brussels networking organisation Idealist Quarterly. Her address will focus on the topic of ‘Does Europe still need feminism? Thoughts from an Irish activist’. This event will take place at 6pm at Les Chemin des Vignes, Rue d’Idalie 27, 1050 Brussels.
Council of Europe Conference
Following her engagements in Brussels tomorrow, Ms. Smyth will be in Strasbourg next week, where she will address the Council of Europe’s Conference of International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) next Tuesday, 27th June, at 1pm at the Palais de L’Europe, Strasbourg, France.
The Conference of INGOs is the chief representative body of INGOs and meets twice a year with the aim of increasing civic engagement across all EU member states.
At next Tuesday’s event, Ms. Smyth will contribute to a panel discussion on the topic of ‘Women’s Mobilisation in Europe 2017: What Impact on Policies’.
Commenting ahead of her European engagements, Ailbhe Smyth said: “The Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment has over 90 organisations, representing 1.5 million Irish people. We are the largest ever social movement focused on abortion rights in Ireland, and our growing size is indicative of the importance of this issue to people across the country.
“In most European countries, women are afforded access to reproductive healthcare, with the health, safety and wellbeing of pregnant women at the centre of all medical decisions.
“The issue of abortion in Ireland has been very much to the fore in the past week, with several sad cases such as the sectioning of a child seeking an abortion, a woman forced to travel to England to access abortion after discovering she was carrying a fatal foetal abnormality, and the case of two women who had attempted suicide and were refused access to abortion. Ireland is seriously out of step with other European States on this issue and, if recent events have taught us anything, it’s that the women of Ireland cannot wait any longer to be given full access to abortion services and to have their human rights respected. I look forward to briefing MEPs and European organisations on the current situation in Ireland over the coming week.”
Article in The Times Ireland today is yet another indictment of Ireland’s failure to respect women’s rights and to ensure their safety
The disturbing case of two women who had attempted suicide and were turned down abortions in Ireland is yet another example of why a referendum on abortion in Ireland is urgently required. That’s according to the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, responding to an article in The Times Ireland today (20.06.2017).
Commenting today, Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, said: “It is extremely disturbing to hear of the cases of two women who had attempted suicide and were refused access to abortions. This is yet another indictment of Ireland’s failure to provide basic and crucial healthcare to women and girls, and is a flagrant violation of their rights.
“The fact that the two women were immigrants further highlights that the Eighth Amendment hurts the most vulnerable people in of our society. This disgraceful situation must end, and the Eighth Amendment should be removed from our Constitution immediately. It is encouraging to see Minister for Health, Simon Harris, confirming his commitment to hold a referendum on the Eighth Amendment in 2018, but what we need now is a clear timeframe for this referendum. As we have seen last week and again today, the safety of women and girls is at risk. We urgently need a referendum.”
– Rallies to Repeal to take place this Saturday in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Kerry –
Newly-elected Taoiseach Leo Varadkar must stick to his commitment to hold a referendum on the Eighth Amendment in 2018. That’s according to the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, which is organising a series of rallies across the country this Saturday, 17th June.
Commenting today (15.07.2017), Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, said: “Ahead of the rallies taking place nationwide this Saturday, we’re calling on our new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to stand by his commitment that there will be a referendum on the Eighth Amendment in 2018. We are calling for a date to be set for early 2018. There can be absolutely no further delays on this issue, and we will be holding the new Taoiseach to this commitment.
“The events of this week have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Ireland’s reproductive health services are failing women and girls appallingly. In the past few days, we’ve seen the sectioning of a child; Ireland’s severe condemnation by the UN for causing intolerable suffering to women and girls; and statistics on the thousands of Irish women forced to travel to England and Wales to obtain an abortion. This demonstrates once again how we, as a country, continue to bury our heads in the sand, and export the entire issue.
“The statistics on the number of women and girls travelling from Ireland to the UK show clearly that women do need and should be able to access abortion services here in Ireland. This week has proved yet again that the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act 2013 is worse than useless in responding to the real-life needs of women and girls here in this country. The Eighth Amendment is a massive and outdated barrier to the health, safety, and human rights of girls and women. As long as it remains in the Constitution, horrific and traumatic cases will continue to occur every year with sad and deeply disturbing predictability.
“The Eighth Amendment has to go, and should be repealed in its entirety. Now, as he takes up his new role, the Taoiseach must show his mettle and act decisively to end this disgraceful disregard for the lives of women and girls in Ireland by setting a date for an early 2018 referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment.”
Marches for Repeal in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Kerry
Ms. Smyth was commenting ahead of a series of rallies scheduled to take place across the country this Saturday, 17th June. The rallies will take place at the following locations:
A new Cork branch of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment was officially launched at a press conference in Cork today (14.06.2017). The Cork branch is the first regional branch of the Coalition to be established.
Commenting on the launch, Kathy D’Arcy, member of the Cork Coalition, said: “The Cork Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment emerged from a shared recognition of the need – and the demand – for Cork to have its own campaign on the issue of reproductive justice. The branch is made up of people from all walks of life who have come together because we are all concerned with repealing the Eighth Amendment. It is time for the Government to face up to the very serious harm and damage done by the Eighth Amendment to women all over Ireland, and to call a constitutional referendum.
“The Cork Coalition and our member groups will be running events throughout the summer, including family-friendly fun days, letter writing parties, music and arts events and open meetings. There is a growing base in Cork of people who support repealing the Eighth Amendment, and the Cork Coalition looks forward to bringing these voices to the national stage.”
Also commenting on the launch of the Cork branch was Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment: “The Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment warmly welcomes the formation of a Cork branch of the Coalition. It’s of huge importance to us that we represent the voices of women and men from every corner of Ireland, and it’s immensely encouraging to see the movement to repeal the Eighth Amendment gaining such momentum nationally and at great speed.”
Cork March to Repeal the Eighth Amendment
The Cork Coalition are organising a march in Cork this Saturday, 17th June, to coincide with the Rallies to Repeal the Eighth Amendment taking place in Galway and Dublin. The march in Cork will commence at 1.30pm at Grand Parade, assembling in front of Cork City Library, and march through the city before re-assembling at Grand Parade. Following the march, a number of guest speakers will address attendees on the theme of ‘After the Citizens’ Assembly, Abortion Rights Now!’.
– For the second time the UN Human Rights Committee finds Ireland’s abortion laws cruel and inhuman –
The Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment welcomes the UN Human Rights Committee’s findings against Ireland in the Whelan v Ireland case, details of which were published today (13.06.2017). The Committee ruled in favour of Siobhán Whelan, who was denied access to abortion services in Ireland after being diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality and was forced to travel outside of Ireland in order to have an abortion.
Commenting in response to the UN Human Rights Committee’s findings, Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, said: “This is the second time in under a year that the UN Human Rights Committee has found that Ireland’s abortion laws subject women to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, violate their human rights to privacy and equality, and contravene international law. The criminalisation and prohibition of abortion in Ireland denied Ms. Whelan access to basic healthcare in her own country, forcing her to travel abroad, further increasing her extreme suffering and causing her significant trauma. We greatly admire her bravery in taking her case to the UNCHR. Having been subjected to such unnecessary additional pain and hardship, it is appalling that the only pathway open to Siobhán Whelan to achieve recognition of the wrong done to her was through the international human rights process.
“Today’s decision is a vindication of Siobhán Whelan’s human rights and comes almost a year after the Committee’s decision in favour of Amanda Mellet, which found unequivocally that Ireland’s abortion laws discriminate against women. Until Ireland’s abortion laws are changed, women in Ireland will continue to experience severe violation of their human rights. There can be no equality when women in Ireland do not have full control over all aspects of their healthcare, including reproductive healthcare and access to abortion services in Ireland. The Government must act immediately on the recommendations of the Citizen’s Assembly and enable a constitutional referendum to take place. Until law reform occurs women’s health and wellbeing will continue to be compromised and endangered by Irish laws on abortion.”
A country where a suicidal pregnant child is sectioned instead of being provided with an abortion is surely one of the worst places in which to be a child. That’s according to the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, who are this morning (12.06.2017) responding to the Irish Times article on the sectioning of a young girl in need of an abortion.
Commenting on the article, Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, said: “The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Concluding Observations on Ireland, published in 2016, expressed deep concern at Ireland’s abortion laws, and how they impact on the lives of children in Ireland. The report explicitly recommended that abortion be decriminalised in all circumstances so as to ensure that children have access to safe abortion and post-abortion care services, and crucially, that the views of the pregnant girl are always heard and respected in abortion decisions.
“This morning’s report that a young girl was sectioned instead of being provided with an abortion, is a deeply distressing example of the very real and damaging effects of Ireland’s abortion laws. That a young girl, at risk of self-harm and suicide as a result of her pregnancy, was denied basic medical care is intolerable. A recent report by ‘Save The Children’ listed Ireland as one of the top countries in the world in which to be a child. This shameful case surely shows it is one of the worst.”
It is shocking that there is no reference to the widening of abortion services in the National Women’s Strategy published today (03.05.2017) given the current visibility and urgency of this key healthcare and equality issue, according to the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment.
The National Women’s Strategy 2017 – 2020 was published today by the Department of Justice and Equality. Commenting in reaction to the Strategy, Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, said: “The publication of a new National Women’s Strategy is a significant development, and it is of course hugely important that the Strategy deals with key issues such as the gender pay gap, pension gap, violence against women, and women in leadership. The aim of the Strategy is to enable women in Ireland achieve equality with men. However, there can be no equality when women in Ireland do not have full control over all aspects of their healthcare.
“It is bizarre that the Strategy makes no reference to the widening of abortion services, beyond a bland mention of the forthcoming report by the Citizen’s Assembly. We are at a loss to understand why there are no recommendations made in the Strategy that the Government set a date for a referendum on the Eighth Amendment and enacts the Citizens’ Assembly’s recent recommendations in legislation.
“The Strategy aims to be a key policy document to create ‘an Ireland where all women enjoy equality with men and can achieve their full potential while enjoying a safe and fulfilling life’. As the Strategy was launched, at least ten women are being forced to travel outside of Ireland to access abortion, with more buying abortion pills online. These women are criminalised, face unnecessary trauma and stigma and put their physical and mental health at risk because they cannot access abortions in Ireland amongst their friends and family. This fact alone goes against the very aim of the National Women’s Strategy to allow women in Ireland to live safe lives.
“The Citizens’ Assembly showed that when Irish people are given the information, research-based evidence and the time and space to discuss women’s reproductive needs, including abortion, they overwhelmingly choose to do what is best for women’s safety, health and wellbeing. The Joint Oireachtas Committee will shortly begin its meetings to consider the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly and to report in turn to the Dáil. They have a wealth of fact-based evidence and testimonies from the Citizens’ Assembly proceedings and submissions to support them in their work.
“We urge them now to get on with the job, to recommend that a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment be held in early 2018, and that legislation should ensure that women have access to abortion in Ireland.”
Response to Minister Richard Bruton’s comments
Commenting in reaction to Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton’s comments that the Government is not bound to the Citizens’ Assembly’s recommendations, Ailbhe Smyth said: “We are surprised to hear Minister Bruton back-peddling on the recommendations made by the Government’s own Citizens’ Assembly, and we are very concerned that this will pre-empt the work of the Joint Oireachtas Committee”.
– In advance of Assembly’s final recommendation, Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment highlights why “the Constitution is no place for the regulation of women’s healthcare” –
The Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment has called on the Citizens’ Assembly to recommend full removal of the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution.
The Assembly has been considering the issue of abortion over the past six months, and is due to make its final recommendations this weekend (22nd and 23rd April).
Commenting today (17.04.17), Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, said: “In most countries, access to abortion is covered by legislation and medical regulations, not in constitutions. There is a reason for this: it ensures law and medical practice are aligned to deliver the best healthcare outcomes for women.
“Our Constitution was never meant to regulate healthcare or other policy areas; it was meant to set out the fundamental principles on which our State operates. Whatever one thinks about abortion itself, the Constitution isn’t a suitable instrument with which to address it. Legal and medical experts agree that the Constitution is inflexible and cumbersome because it can only be changed by referendum and, by its nature, it’s not a useful tool for addressing complex social questions.
“A woman’s pregnancy and reproductive health can require very complex decisions. These should be a matter for the woman, her family and her doctor alone. No constitutional wording can allow for the complexities of such decisions.”
Ms. Smyth said the Eighth Amendment has resulted in contradictions and conflict within Ireland’s sexual and reproductive healthcare services.
“The Amendment has had a devastating impact on the lives of many women and their families,” she said. “It means women die because they are denied the medical treatment they need; their health may be seriously compromised; they are forced to carry pregnancies to completion knowing the foetus cannot survive; and thousands each year leave Ireland to get pregnancy and abortion care abroad, often with no follow-up care when they return home.
“Putting this issue into the Constitution in the first place distorted our legislative process and made it almost impossible to achieve even minor change. We urge the Citizens’ Assembly to recommend, at the very least, restoring the normal processes of democratic decision-making by reversing the mistake that was made in 1983.
“Our member organisations look forward to a recommendation that the Eighth Amendment must be deleted from the Constitution and that no replacement amendment should be proposed.”
The Irish State’s policy of ‘wait and see’ when it comes to the issue of abortion is entirely unacceptable. That’s according to Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, reacting to the State’s hearing before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in Geneva today.
Patricia O’Brien, Ireland’s Ambassador to the UN, appeared before the committee today, the first time in ten years that Irish officials have been examined under CEDAW. Commenting on the hearing, Ailbhe Smyth said, “At today’s hearing the Irish Government made no commitment to calling a referendum, and also failed to clarify how they would deal with the provision of abortion services in the event of repeal of the Eighth Amendment. Their policy of waiting to see what results from the Citizens’ Assembly shows that the Government has no firm commitment to dealing with this issue.
“During the hearing the Irish delegation evaded answering direct questioning on the wording of a referendum, and presented no indication of a timeline as to when the referendum would take place. The issue of abortion is not going away, regardless of the findings of the Citizens’ Assembly, and it’s time for the Government to act decisively and commit to dealing with it.”
The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) – a leading sexual health provider – has joined the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, bringing the membership of the Coalition to 81 organisations who are working together to raise awareness of the urgent need for a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
Welcoming the new members, Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition, said: “The Coalition is now the largest ever civil society grouping in Ireland working to achieve constitutional change on this issue and I am delighted to welcome the IFPA as our newest member. The Eighth Amendment is a profound source of discrimination and national shame for Ireland and we heartened by the diverse membership of the Coalition working together to ensure that women have the right to make their own reproductive decisions.
“It has been a busy start to 2017 for the Coalition. Our members participated in the Women’s March in support of justice, equality and human rights; we highlighted our concerns about the impact of Brexit on women travelling to Britain for an abortion at an event organised by the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign in London; we held our AGM and released our Annual Review 2016; and we attended the Citizens’ Assembly February session as observers having made our submission last December.”
Upcoming Events and Activities
The Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment are organising March4Repeal on Wednesday, 8th March 2017 at 5.30pm to mark International Women’s Day and call on the Government to name the date for a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment. The march begins at the Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square, Dublin 1.
On the same day, Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition is delivering a keynote address on the impacts of the Eighth Amendment to the 7thWorld Congress on Women’s Mental Health, being hosted this year in Dublin by the National Women’s Council of Ireland in partnership with Trinity College Dublin.
The Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment has expressed its concern about the impact of Brexit on women travelling to Britain for an abortion, and called on the young Irish diaspora to support the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to protect the lives, health and choices of women in Ireland.
The Coalition made the call ahead of an event organised by the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign which takes place this evening,Wednesday, 1st February 2017 at 6.30pm in Queen Mary College, University of London. Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition, will speak at the event along with Professor Fiona de Londras, Chair in Global Legal Studies at Birmingham Law School; Ann Furedi, CEO of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service; Emma Campbell, Alliance for Choice; and Dr Leah Desmond, Doctors for Choice.
Ms Smyth said: “Every year, 3,600 Irish women are forced to leave Ireland and travel to Britain to access abortion services that they should be able to access at home. The UNHCR have recognised that it is a violations of women’s human rights to be forced to travel outside of Ireland to access abortion services yet the Irish Government has made no commitment to undertake the necessary constitutional and legislative reforms to end, once and for all, Ireland’s violation of international human rights law and obligations under human rights conventions and treaties.
“In the wake of Brexit, what will happen to these women if border or immigration controls come in? We simply don’t know if women will be able to travel freely. Media reports suggest that this vitally important issue wasn’t discussed when An Taoiseach Enda Kenny met British Prime Minister, Teresa May, in Dublin last Monday.
“The Eighth Amendment is a profound source of discrimination and national shame for Ireland and we are calling on our young Irish diaspora tosupport its repeal. These are young women and men who want – and expect – to return to an Ireland that is just, committed to equality, and where women have the right to make our own reproductive decisions.
The Eighth Amendment and access to abortion came to the fore in public discourse and consciousness in 2016. That’s according to the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, as it published its Annual Review 2016 this morning (26.01.2017).
Commenting on the progress made in 2016, Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition, said: “2016 proved to be a ‘tipping point’ for Repeal and throughout the year we have all worked extraordinarily hard to make repeal of the eighth and abortion a centrally important issue, and to broaden out to reach women and men all over Ireland.
“There can be no doubt that both the political and public consensus is that a referendum is inevitable. The Citizens’ Assembly must report back to Government on the 8th Amendment in June 2017 at the latest. Whatever their recommendations, the Coalition will continue to put pressure on Government to call a referendum without any further delay. We have said it many times and will go on saying it for as long as necessary: women cannot wait. The long-standing denial of women’s rights to bodily autonomy, to equality and to freedom from discrimination must end.”
Key Milestones in 2016
There were many milestones reached on the issue of abortion during 2016, including:
Coalition Growth and Activities
Membership of the Coalition grew by 70 percent in 2016. It is now the largest ever civil society grouping in Ireland working to achieve constitutional change on this issue. Its 77 members range from human rights, feminist and pro-choice organisations to trade unions, NGOs and community groups. Combined, the members represent 1.5 million people nationwide.
Speaking about the growth of the Coalition and its 2016 programme of activities, Ms Smyth said, “2016 was also a significant year for us as a Coalition as we launched the Coalition website in August, significantly raised our social media following and presence and in doing so we have greatly improved the public’s awareness of what is involved in repealing the Eighth Amendment. We have held rallies, public meetings and a series of public conversations on the theme ‘It’s Time to Talk about Abortion’. Our work this year contributed to ensuring that people’s understanding of what’s at stake and why it matters so much has been hugely increased and deepened.”
A constitution is no place for reproductive healthcare policy. That’s according to the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, who made their submission to the Citizens’ Assembly ahead of the deadline tomorrow.
Speaking about the submission, Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition, said: “The issue which the Citizens’ Assembly has been asked to consider is more than a constitutional matter; it is a human rights issue, an equality issue, a medical issue, a class issue and a feminist issue. The implications of the Eighth Amendment extend far beyond the prohibition on abortion and negatively affect a broad range of medical, legal and human rights areas. These far-reaching implications are directly reflected in the Coalition’s broad and diverse membership.
“The Coalition’s 75 members stand behind our submission and I am confident that many have also made their own to the Assembly. We are calling on all members of the public to use their voice and make a submission before the deadline tomorrow. Your voice counts and even one page can make a difference.”
‘Remove, Not Replace’
Ms. Smyth said the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment wants the Citizens’ Assembly to focus on removing the Eighth Amendment completely from the Constitution, rather than replacing it with an alternative clause.
“A constitution is no place for reproductive healthcare policy,” she said. “It is the unanimous view of the Coalition that the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution must be repealed in its entirety to ensure that appropriate medical and health-care services can be put in place to regulate access to abortion services in Ireland.
“Until the Eight Amendment is repealed and abortion is provided by health services in Ireland, women and girls will continue to be denied their right to full reproductive healthcare; they will remain second class citizens and their human rights will continue to be violated.”
Submission accepted via the website: www.citizensassembly.ie/en/Submissions/ Closing date for receipt of submissions on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution is 5pm on 16th December 2016. Postal submissions received after this date will not be accepted.
The Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment is now the largest ever civil society grouping in Ireland working to achieve constitutional change on this issue. Its 75 members range from human rights, feminist and pro-choice organisations to trade unions, NGOs and community groups. Combined, the members represent 1.5 million people nationwide.
GLEN (Gay and Lesbian Equality Network) – a policy and strategy focused NGO which aims to deliver ambitious and positive change for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) in Ireland – has recently joined the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment.
Speaking about joining the Coalition, Áine Duggan, GLEN CEO, said: “GLEN has joined the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment because equality and bodily integrity are core values and drivers of our work as a LGBTQI rights-based advocacy organisation. We believe a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment is imperative to ensuring the rights, choices and well-being of all individuals living in Ireland who could become pregnant, including a majority of the LGBTQI community. Further, denial of abortion rights presents specific risks to LGBTQI-identified individuals, as international studies show LGBTQI-identified youth are at higher risk than their heterosexual counterparts for unintended pregnancies.
The organisation joins a growing alliance of 74 organisations including TFMR Ireland (Terminations for Medical Reasons Ireland); the Rape Crisis Network Ireland; and Dublin Well Women Centre who are working together to raise awareness of the urgent need for a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment. Other new members in November include Wexford Pro-Choice and Labour Youth.
Welcoming the new members, Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition, said: “The Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment is now the largest ever civil society grouping in Ireland working to achieve constitutional change on this issue and I am delighted to welcome GLEN as our newest member.
“It has been an exceptionally busy month for the Coalition as we made our submission to the Citizens’ Assembly; hosted a productive working visit from Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service; and held a lunchtime rally ‘Women Rising in Solidarity 2016’ in Dublin to demand that the Irish Government take action to respect and protect women’s lives, health and choices.
“It was also a significant month for all women in Ireland as the Government offered compensation and appropriate counselling to Amanda Mellet in recognition of the trauma and distress she endured along with her husband James because of Ireland’s prohibitive abortion laws.”
The Government has today (30.11.2016) taken a small step towards recognising the trauma and distress endured by Amanda Mellet, her husband James and by so many women and couples because of Ireland’s prohibitive abortion laws.
That’s according to the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, in response to the Government decision to pay Ms Mellet compensation in acknowledgement that her human rights were violated when she had to travel outside of Ireland to access abortion services.
Speaking about the decision, Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition, said: “By offering compensation and appropriate counselling to Amanda, the Government has acknowledged the significant trauma she and her husband suffered. The decision is a vindication of Amanda’s human rights and we commend her for her bravery in taking her case to UNHR Committee.
“The Government must immediately ensure no other woman suffers similar human rights violations. The Eighth Amendment is a profound source of discrimination and national shame for Ireland. It is simply not good enough to pass the book to the Citizen’s Assembly and not make any commitment to undertake the necessary constitutional and legislative reforms to end, once and for all, Ireland’s violation of international human rights law and obligations under human rights conventions and treaties.
“We cannot, as a country, continue to oversee the violation of women’s human rights. We’re saying that women deserve better and Ireland can do much better.”
The health and wellbeing of women, and the services to fulfil their needs must be at the heart of the discussions at the Citizens’ Assembly. That’s according to the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, ahead of the meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly taking place tomorrow, Saturday, 26th November 2016.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition, said: “Our Coalition of 66 member organisations believe that it is imperative that the Assembly’s discussions focus on the health and wellbeing of women rather than focusing disproportionately on constitutional arguments.
“The abortion debate needs to be informed by expertise, experience and facts. The ultimate experts in this debate are women themselves. It is vital that the Assembly hear from those who have direct experience of the detrimental consequences of the Eighth Amendment on their lives and health. In doing so, the Assembly must take care to put in place appropriate safeguards to protect women who give evidence to the Assembly from unwanted public exposure.
Secondly, it is our view that the Assembly should hear from international experts with expertise on the development of laws, policies and protocols for the provision of accessible abortion services that are in line with best international healthcare practice, and with international human rights law.”
‘Remove, Not Replace’
Ms. Smyth said the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment wants the Citizens’ Assembly to focus on removing the Eighth Amendment completely from the Constitution, rather than replacing it with an alternative clause.
“A constitution is no place for reproductive healthcare policy,” she said. “It is the unanimous view of the Coalition that the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution must be repealed in its entirety to ensure that appropriate medical and healthcare services can be put in place to regulate and provide access to abortion services here in Ireland.”
The Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment is now the largest ever civil society grouping in Ireland working to achieve constitutional change on this issue. Its 66 members range from human rights, feminist and pro-choice organisations to trade unions, NGOs and community groups. Combined, the members represent 1.5 million people nationwide.
The Coalition is supporting Women Rising in Solidarity rallies in Dublin and Cork today. In solidarity with women around the world, the Coalition calls for an end to punitive laws everywhere that deprive women of their entitlement to exercise their human rights to equality, autonomy and self-determination.