Three abortion committee members to boycott final meeting

Taoiseach: My position on abortion 'has evolved over time'

As it stands, the 1983 Eighth Amendment of the Constitution affords equal rights to pregnant women and unborn children. That proposal was carried by a significant majority of 12 votes to five.

Ailbhe Smyth, a spokeswoman for the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, a group pressing to repeal the constitutional provision that bans abortion, praised the committee's decision, calling it "a very major step forward".

The PLC was commenting after the committee voted to recommend abortion on wide-ranging grounds, up to 12 weeks on request and up to birth on health grounds that are not and can not be defined.

The Taoiseach has said he would like to see a referendum on the issue in May or June.

Ms Sherlock believes that the public will vote to retain the Eighth Amendment saying: "Particularly in this case due to the imbalance on the committee the public hasn't had the chance to hear the reality of what abortion means in other countries and how it affects society".

"We were also pleased to see a recommendation for access to abortion without gestational limits in cases of fatal foetal abnormality".

The Pro Life campaign has branded the committee's findings "appalling". The committee chairperson has been at pains to stress that they invited no advocacy groups to address them when in truth several pro-repeal advocacy groups were invited as witnesses at taxpayers' expense.

"We want human rights for everybody that's involved in maternity care both people who are going through it and people who are working in it and the repeal of the Eighth Amendment is really the only way to achieve that".

Sinn Fein's two members on the committee abstained on this issue. However, the committee voted against that proposal (17-3).

Recommendations from the committee will probably set the stage for next year's planned referendum on the issue considered by many to be the most divisive in Irish politics. For the moment, the party's position is to allow for abortions under certain circumstances.

"I believe it shouldn't be in the Constitution, I believe it should be repealed", Ms Burton said.

The committee did not back access to abortion without restriction to reasons up to 22 weeks and it also did not back access to terminations on socio-economic grounds.

The Committee has today voted in favour to Repeal the 8th Amendment to the Irish constitution "with no restriction as to reason" in cases of pregnancy up to 12 weeks.

For decades Irish women and girls seeking to terminate their pregnancies have gone overseas, mainly to Britain.

Legislation was changed only in 2013 to allow terminations in cases where the mother's life was in danger after a woman who was having a miscarriage died of sepsis in a hospital where her medical team refused her pleas to end the failed pregnancy.

" Worldwide experience shows that, where access to abortion is legislated for in a very restrictive way, it frequently causes harm to health and serious distress to people seeking to access the service", he said.

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