Latest: Eighth Amendment issue must be dealt with definitively, says Health Minister

Update 6.50pm: Minister for Health Simon Harris has said that it is important that the Citizens’ Assembly final report on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution is given full consideration.

Minister Harris said: “The Assembly’s report has now been published and I would like to commend the members of their Assembly for their work. The report will be considered by a Special Oireachtas Committee.

“The Committee will be asked to report its conclusions and recommendations to both Houses of the Oireachtas within three months of its first public meeting.

“Members of the Dáil and Seanad will then have an opportunity to debate the issue before final Government consideration.

“It is very important now that the Special Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment commence its work to examine the recommendations of the Citizen's Assembly.

“This is an issue that, as a nation, we now need to deal with definitively. This must be a respectful debate and I am determined that we will prove ourselves capable of addressing these issues in a respectful way.

“I want to be the Minister who brings forward the legislation to enable this important referendum in 2018.”

Update 6.09pm: Twenty-five pregnancies were terminated in Ireland last year under strict laws, official figures have revealed.

One case involved a woman whose life was at risk from suicide, another eight procedures were carried out because of a risk of physical illness to the woman and 16 were as a result of emergencies arising out of physical illness.

The Department of Health said the number of terminations was broadly in line with what had been anticipated when the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was being drawn up.

That legislation came into force in 2014 and allows for a pregnancy to be terminated where there is a real and substantial or immediate risk to a woman's life from a physical illness or from suicide.

There were 26 terminations notified in 2015.

The Department of Health also said two applications for terminations last year were reviewed and both were found to meet the criteria.

The figures on terminations were released as the final report of the Citizens Assembly on abortion law reform was published.

The assembly called for the removal of article 40.3.3, the eighth amendment to the Constitution, which grants equal right to life to the unborn.

It said this should be replaced with a provision putting the onus on the Oireachtas to determine laws on the termination of pregnancy, rights of the unborn and the rights of pregnant women.

The Oireachtas Committee on the Eight Amendment to the Constitution, which was set up to examine the assembly's recommendations, is expected to begin hearings on the issue in late September.

Committee chairman Senator Catherine Noone said today: "While we have a limited amount of time to consider this issue, we can now use the work done by the Citizens' Assembly to consider this issue in a comprehensive, objective and mature manner."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has pledged to hold a referendum on the issue next year.

Update14:13pm: Public meetings will be held from September on options for repealing the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution.

The Citizen’s Assembly has published its final report on the subject, which saw an overwhelming majority say that the amendment, guaranteeing the equal right to life of the mother and unborn child, should be repealed.

Chair of the Assembly, Judge Mary Laffoy is putting the matter back in the hands of the Oireachtas, where an all-party committee will consider the recommendations.

Judge Mary Laffoy

TD Jan O'Sullivan has said an Oireachtas committee will get to work on the issue.

"My understanding is that we will start our public meetings in September and then we have a three month period from the first public meeting when we have to make recommendations to the Oireachtas," she said.

Judge Mary Laffoy has also added to the recommendations of the Assembly and said all women across the country should have equal access to pregnancy scans, and she has said consideration should be given as to who will fund and carry out termination of pregnancy in Ireland.

The Taoiseach has said he expects a referendum on the topic next year.

Medical experts gathered in Dublin this morning where they discussed international best practice on abortion.

Caitriona Henchion from the IFPA has said abortion must be integrated into reproductive healthcare if women’s best interest are to be served.

"In terms of abortion laws, Ireland still stands with the developing world rather than the developed world, if you want to put it in a very simple nutshell.

"That means that we are not providing the same level of healthcare and reproductive health rights to women as other developed countries do," she said.

Meanwhile in Belfast, the Court of Appeal says abortion reform should be left to the Stormont Assembly.

The High Court had previously ruled that the laws banning abortion in the case of rape or fatal foetal abnormality breached a woman’s rights.

Campaigner Berrnie Smyth welcomed the ruling in the North.

"We accept that this has been a great victory here, a victory for democracy, a victory for the right to life. We have a statement that states very clearly the right to life is granted neither by judges or politicians but it's their duty to protect it," she said.

However in the absence of the Assembly sitting, it will be some time before the matter is dealt with in both jurisdictions.

File photo of Citizen Assembly

Earlier:The Citizens Assembly will deliver its report on the 8th Amendment to the Oireachtas today.

The group of 100 citizens spent five months hearing experts reports and personal testimonials.

It is expected that a Referendum on the issue will be held in early 2018.

Colm O'Gorman from Amnesty International has said it is important the issue moves forward.

"From our perspective it's very very clear indeed all legal expertise points at the fact that the only way to guarantee the freedom of the Oireachtas to legislate for laws that fully respect to and fulfil human rights... here in Ireland, is to remove the 8th Amendment in its entirety from the Constitution and that's something that the Citizens Assembly clearly recommended," he said.


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