Irish Parliamentary Committee Recommends Abortion Law Reform

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(PRESS RELEASE)Today the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution—a select committee of the Irish Parliament (Oireachtas) charged with making a recommendation to the full Oireachtas with respect to the legality of abortion— recommended reform of the country’s abortion law.

The Committee voted to recommend the full repeal of the Eight Amendment of the Irish Constitution and law reform to legalize abortion on a woman’s request without restriction as to reason within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and thereafter in cases where there is a risk to the health or life of the woman. If such reforms take place, Ireland’s abortion law would be in line with most European countries.

 “Women’s health and well-being are harmed when laws deny them access to safe and legal abortion care in their home country,” said Leah Hoctor, regional director for Europe at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Today the Joint Oireachtas Committee recognized that Ireland’s prohibition of abortion cannot continue and that meaningful law reform is necessary to protect women’s health." 

The Committee's recommendations will now be considered by the Irish government and parliament. For constitutional change to occur a majority of the Irish parliament must first support the call for a constitutional referendum, and thereafter a referendum of the Irish electorate must be held. A constitutional referendum has been slated for May or June 2018. 

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed complaints against Ireland on behalf of Amanda Mellet and Siobhán Whelan before the U.N. Human Rights Committee in 2013 and 2014 respectively. In 2016 and 2017 the U.N. Committee held that Ireland’s prohibition on abortion caused them significant harm in violation of their human rights and ruled that Ireland must reform its laws. 

Current Irish law on abortion is among the most restrictive in the world. It prohibits abortion in all situations except where a pregnant woman’s life is substantially at risk. Every year thousands of women leave Ireland to access abortion care in other European countries.