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Fifth Meeting of the Citizens' Assembly on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution

The Assembly had its fifth and final meeting on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution on 22-23 April 2017.

Agenda for the fifth meeting of the Citizens' Assembly on the Eighth Amendment

The work programme for the weekend focused on reaching recommendations by ballot paper voting and comprised of several steps namely; agreeing on the issues to be included in a ballot; agreeing on the precise wording of the ballot or ballots; voting.

The Assembly is first and foremost an exercise in deliberative democracy and at the end of the March meeting of the Assembly, following four weekends of consideration on the topic, Members were invited to make suggestions on the types of issues they thought should be voted upon or included on a ballot paper at the final weekend. These suggestions have informed the preparation of a draft ballot paper, circulated to the Members before Easter. This work was being led by the Chair with the assistance of the Expert Advisory Group and the Secretariat and with input from the Member Steering Group.

Each draft ballot was subject to discussion, including private roundtable discussions and question and answer sessions to examine the draft and facilitate any changes suggested and agreed by the Members and Chair. The draft ballot is sequential in nature, meaning each ballot is dependent on the outcome of earlier ballots and not all ballots may be reached. All question and answer sessions, discussions and agreements on the wording of each individual ballot paper voted upon can be viewed on our Youtube channel

Voting was in secret and the voting process and counting of ballot papers was overseen by Mr. John Fitzpatrick, the former Returning Officer for County Dublin and his team. The results of the ballot were announced as soon as the votes had been counted and verified and this announcement was done by the Chair in public session which the public could watch live.

In advance of this weekend, the Members received the following documents:

Some of these documents were provided in response to direct requests from Members.

Saturday's Proceedings

The Chair's opening speech to the Assembly on the Saturday morning is available to read here.

On Saturday, the Assembly Members commenced their discussions on the draft ballot paper. The Secretary, Sharon Finegan, gave a presentation to explain how the individual draft ballots link together and the possible permutations, depending on the outcome of the sequential votes. To follow this presentation, please use this link.  

NOTE: In respect of the Chair's explanatory remarks before each ballot, the content delivered on the day may differ slightly from the scripts below. 

A full transcript of the day's proceedings can be read here

Ballot 1

The Chair's explanation of draft ballot paper 1 is available to read here

The Members agreed on the text of the ballot paper as proposed. A copy of the ballot paper they voted on can be viewed here

The Members, by a majority of 79 votes to 12 votes, recommended by ballot that Article 40.3.3° should not be retained in full. Further details on the result of the ballot are available here

Ballot 2

The Chair's explanation of draft ballot paper 2 is available to read here

The Members agreed on the text of the ballot paper as proposed. A copy of the ballot paper they voted on can be viewed here

The Members, by a majority of 50 votes to 39 votes, recommended by ballot Option 2: Article 40.3.3° should be replaced or amended. Further details on the result of the ballot are available here

Ballot 3

The Chair's explanation of draft ballot paper 3 is available to read here

Revisions were made by the Members on the draft ballot 3 as previously circulated. A copy of the revised ballot paper the Members voted on is available here

The Members, by a majority of 51 votes to 38 votes, recommended by ballot Option 1: Article 40.3.3° should be replaced with a constitutional provision that explicitly authorises the Oireachtas to legislate to address termination of pregnancy, any rights of the unborn, and any rights of the woman. Further details on the result of the ballot are available here

Sunday's Proceedings

The Members considered draft ballot 4B on Sunday.

A full transcript of Sunday's proceedings can be read here

Ballot 4B

The Chair's explanation of draft ballot 4B is available to read here

Revisions were made by the Members on the draft ballot 4B as previously circulated. A copy of the revised ballot paper the Members voted on is available here

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.

A detailed breakdown of the results of the ballot are available to view here

The Chair's closing comments to the Assembly on Sunday afternoon are available to read here

Ancillary Recommendations

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. Suggestions were made using this form. The five ancillary recommendations which the Chair included in the final report are:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.

Deliberation

Over the course of the weekend the Members engaged in roundtable discussions, with the assistance of facilitators at each table. Further details on the facilitation process are available here.

Each table was provided with the same conversation starters for each session. 

Members

A list of Members at the fifth meeting on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution is available here