The Citizens' Assembly have concluded their deliberations and have - among other things - recommended that women should be able to legally access abortion in Ireland, with no restriction.
Amidst all the commentary let's take a look at the facts and their implications for the future of the Eighth Amendment.
- Supreme Court Judge Mary Laffoy will submit a report to the Dáil in late June
- Her report will include the results of the Citizens' Assembly vote
- If TDs accept the recommendations a constitutional referendum will be needed to determine any reform
- There is no indication yet of when legislation could be introduced in response to the report
What is the Citizens' Assembly?
The Citizens' Assembly is a randomly selected group of 99 members of the public.
The group was chaired by Supreme Court Judge Mary Laffoy.
What did they discuss?
An examination of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which gives equal right to life to the mother and to the unborn child was at the heart of the Citizens' Assembly's work.
The committee heard personal stories of women who have had abortions and crisis pregnancies.
The Citizens' Assembly also accepted submissions which can be read here.
They also heard from a range of advocacy groups, with a debate between pro-life and pro-choice specialists on the ethical aspects of abortion.
How did they vote?
The Citizens' Assembly decided that Ireland's abortion laws should be changed.
They recommend that the Eighth Amendment should be replaced rather than repealed.
Separately they recommend that only the houses of the Oireachtas should have the power to legislate for abortion.
Furthermore, they voted on a range of circumstances for which abortion may be legal.
- Real and substantial physical risk to the life of the woman;
- real and substantial risk to the life of the woman by suicide;
- serious risk to the physical health of the woman;
- serious risk to the mental health of the woman;
- serious risk to the health of the woman;
- risk to the physical health of the woman;
- risk to the health of the woman;
- pregnancy as a result of rape;
- the unborn child has a foetal abnormality that is likely to result in death before or shortly after birth;
- the unborn child has a significant foetal abnormality that is not likely to result in death before or shortly after birth;
- socio-economic reasons;
- no restriction as to reasons.
When asked if terminations should be allowed "with no restriction as to reasons", 29 out of the eligible voters chose "never for this reason", while a total of 52 voted in favour. Six preferred not to state an opinion.
It is therefore the recommendation of the Citizens' Assembly that Ireland should legislate for abortion "with no restriction as to reasons".
After the vote, Chair of the Assembly Justice Mary Laffoy summed it up: "You have made your recommendations known. These recommendations at a minimum have called for a change to the status quo.
"To be clear, to act on this initial recommendation, a constitutional referendum will be required."
Will the recommendations be directed at the legislator or the Constitution?
The recommendation to replace the Eighth Amendment is aimed at the Constitution and will require a constitutional referendum.
The recommendations regarding the circumstances in which a woman should have legal access to abortion is aimed at the legislator.
In this regard, the Citizens' Assembly has recommended that only the Oireachtas should have the power to legislate.
What happens to the report?
Supreme Court Judge Mary Laffoy will submit a report to the Dáil in late June.
It will include the specific results of the ballot and Laffoy has told the Assembly that her report will include the views of "dissenting voices".
If TDs accept the recommendations a constitutional referendum will be needed to determine any reform.
There is no indication yet of when legislation could be introduced in response to the report.
Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe says it is for Dáil and Seanad to deal with, but wouldn't be drawn on when we could expect legislation.
"I can't, at this point, give an indication as to what a legislative timeline would be, for the simple reason now that the Oireachtas Committee now has to form, now has to consider this matter, which they will do, and in the aftermath of that happening the Government will form a response to how we deal with a matter that the country wants to be considered."
Now we wait
Once Supreme Court Judge Mary Laffoy has finished the report it will be available here.