The Resolution approving establishment of the Assembly outlines five topics to be considered by the Assembly. The first of these was the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.
It was initially intended to have four meetings to consider the Eighth Amendment. However at the Private Session during the January meeting, the Assembly Members voted to have an additional weekend to consider the Eighth Amendment.
A revised work programme was prepared to reflect these changes and is available to view here.
The Assembly considered the Eighth Amendment on the following weekends:
- 26-27 November 2016
- 7-8 January 2017
- 4-5 February 2017
- 4-5 March 2017
- 22-23 April 2017
Please click on the date above to view material presented to the Assembly on that weekend.
The Assembly invited members of the public, representative groups and citizen organisations to make a submission on this topic. The submissions process formally opened on 14 October 2016 and closed at 5pm on 16 December 2016.
Please click here to view submissions on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution received from members of the public, advocacy/interest groups and other representative organisations.
In the first ballot, 87% of the Members voted that Article 40.3.3° of the Constitution should not be retained in full.
In the second ballot, 56% of the Members voted that Article 40.3.3° should be amended or replaced.
In the third ballot, 57% of the Members recommended that Article 40.3.3° be replaced with a Constitutional provision explicitly authorising the Oireachtas to address termination of pregnancy, any rights of the unborn and any rights of the pregnant woman. In other words, it would be a matter for the Oireachtas to decide how to legislate on these issues.
The Assembly Members made recommendations by ballot to the Oireachtas about what should be included in this legislation. Specifically, what reasons, if any, for which termination of pregnancy should be lawful in Ireland, as well as any gestational limits that should apply.
64% of the Members have recommended that the termination of pregnancy without restriction should be lawful. Of that group of Members:
- 48% have recommended that the termination of pregnancy without restriction should be lawful up to 12 weeks gestation age only.
- 44 % have recommended that the termination of pregnancy without restriction should be lawful up to 22 weeks’ gestation age only.
- 8% have recommended that the termination of pregnancy with no restriction to gestational age.
In addition, a majority of Assembly Members recommended by ballot the following reasons, for which termination of pregnancy should be lawful in Ireland:
- Real and substantial physical risk to the life of the woman (99%)
- Real and substantial risk to the life of the woman by suicide (95%)
- Serious risk to the physical health of the woman (93%)
- Serious risk to the mental health of the woman (90%)
- Serious risk to the health of the woman (91%)
- Risk to the physical health of the woman (79%)
- Risk to the mental health of the woman (78%)
- Risk to the health of the woman (78%)
- Pregnancy as result of rape (89%)
- The unborn child has a foetal abnormality that is likely to result in death before or shortly after birth (89%)
- The unborn child has a significant foetal abnormality that is not likely to result in death before or shortly after birth (80%)
- Socio-economic reasons (72%)
For all the above reasons Members made recommendations as to any gestational limits if any which should apply.
In feedback over the five meetings the Members indicated that they also wanted to see wider policy issues, as distinct from just legal changes, reflected in the recommendations of the Assembly. On Sunday afternoon, the Members had the opportunity to make ancillary recommendations on the topic. The five ancillary recommendations which the Chair included in the final report are:
- Improvements should be made in sexual health and relationship education, including the areas of contraception and consent, in primary and post-primary schools, colleges, youth clubs and other organisations involved in education and interactions with young people.
- Improved access to reproductive healthcare services should be available to all women – to include family planning services, contraception, perinatal hospice care and termination of pregnancy if required.
- All women should have access to the same standard of obstetrical care, including early scanning and testing. Services should be available to all women throughout the country irrespective of geographic location or socio-economic circumstances.
- Improvements should be made to counselling and support facilities for pregnant women both during pregnancy and, if necessary, following a termination of pregnancy, throughout the country.
- Further consideration should be given as to who will fund and carry out termination of pregnancy in Ireland.
The decriminalisation of abortion, including the use of the abortion pill; and recognition of and protection of female reproductive rights and autonomy; were also provided in the responses from the Members.
In accordance with the Resolution of the Houses of the Oireachtas approving establishment of the Assembly, the Chair, the Honourable Mary Laffoy, laid her Final Report and Recommendations on this topic before the Houses of the Oireachtas on 29 June 2017. It was also published on the website on the same day and is available to read here.
Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution
In accordance with the Resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas approving establishment of the Assembly, the Assembly's final report and recommendations were considered by a Joint Committee of both Houses of the Oireachtas.
The Honourable Mary Laffoy appeared before the Joint Committee on the 20 September 2017. A copy the address given by the Chair is available here (PDF), and a transcript of the Committee meeting is available on the Oireachtas website here.
A letter sent by the Chair to Senator Catherine Noone, Chair of the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, clarifying the Assembly's exact recommendation in respect of Reason 13 on Ballot 4B is available to view here. Senator Noone read the clarification into the record at the Committee's public meeting on 11 October 2017.
The Committee met in public session between September - December 2017. Transcripts of the Committee's public proceedings can be found here.
The Committee's report was published on the 20 December 2017 and is available to read here.
Further information on the work of the Committee can be found on the Houses of the Oireachtas website - www.oireachtas.ie.
Referendum on the Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution
The Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018 was initiated by the Minister for Health Simon Harris T.D. in Dáil Éireann on 7 March 2018, and on 9 March 2018 he moved the Bill for second stage. Having passed through the Dáil on 21 March 2018, the Bill moved to Seanad Éireann for consideration on the 27 and 28 March 2018.
The Bill outlined that Article 40.3.3° would be repealed and replaced with a provision that reads "Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy."
In advance of the referendum, the Minister for Health published the General Scheme of a bill to regulate termination of pregnancy. This was intended to provide the electorate with a draft proposal of legislation the Government would seek to enact should the referendum pass.
The referendum was held on the 25 May 2018. The referendum passed by a majority of 66.4% in favour.
In accordance with Article 46.5 of the Constitution and the Referendum Act 1994, the President will sign the Bill into law 7 days after the publication of the provisional referendum certificate in Iris Oifigiúil and in the absence of any legal petitions to the result.
Archive footage is available to view here.