Citizens' Assembly to hear personal stories of women who have had abortions

Personal stories of women who have had abortions and crisis pregnancies will be heard by the Citizens' Assembly in March.

The Assembly will also hear from a range of advocacy groups at next month's meeting.

Today's session started with a debate between pro-life and pro-choice specialists on the ethical aspects of abortion.

Dr Donal O'Mathuna, senior lecturer in ethics, decision-making and evidence at Dublin City University, told the Assembly the issue of autonomous decision-making about abortion was unfair to the unborn.

"Where is the fairness in this for the unborn, who are totally without power? Relational autonomy holds that in relationships we must consider our responsibilities towards others, not just our rights," he said.

Dr Joan McCarthy of University College Cork, however, said the Eighth Amendment tramples on women's autonomy rights and poses serious risks to the mental and physical health of pregnant women.

She said the amendment requires of expectant mothers a self sacrifice that is unreasonable and unjust.

The Assembly will meet again in March and will hear directly from women who have been affected by the Eighth Amendment.

Chairman of the Assembly Ms Justice Laffoy said: "Hearing personal testimony is important as it allows the citizens the opportunity to hear first-hand about how the matters they are discussing at these weekends affect women and their families.

"We are now developing a work programme for the next meeting that will bring this testimony to the members in an informative manner, that can aid them in making a recommendation to the Houses of the Oireachtas."

The final weekend on the Eighth Amendment in April will focus on making recommendations to the Oireachtas.

Ms Justice Mary Laffoy.

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