february coalition protest citizens’ assembly leinster house
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A rally was held by pro-choice campaigners outside Leinster House on Tuesday evening calling for an abortion referendum to be held next February.
It was organised by The Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, an alliance of more than 70 organisations campaigning to repeal the Eight Amendment.
Last month members of the Citizens’ Assembly voted for a constitutional amendment that would mandate the Oireachtas to deal with the issue of abortion.
The citizens voted 51-38 to an amended ballot paper which suggested that Article 40.3.3, the Eighth Amendment, “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 pregnant woman”.
Ailbhe Smyth, a spokeswoman for the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, accused the Government using the Citizens’ Assembly as a “delay tactic”.
“I would say to the Government, ‘you set up a Citizens’ Assembly to bluster, fluster, do a bit of hiding, do a bit of delaying so you wouldn’t have to make a decision’. That assembly deliberated, very deliberately, and gave the Government far more than it bargained for,” said Ms Smyth.
“We could see the tectonic plates shifting during the months that the assembly were meeting and you could see the penny dropping,” she said.
“This is not some divisive, irritating, annoying , sometimes boring fight that people up in Dublin have outside and inside Dáil Éireann. This is an issue that matters to women and for women and the country as a whole,” said Ms Smyth.
“They voted overwhelmingly for one condition in relation to women’s ’s health – no more saying, ‘well let’s base it on physician or mental health as if half of you is mental and half of you is physical’. They said stop all this baloney. There’s women’s health, that’s what matters and we want it in legislation,” said Ms Smyth.
“We want a referendum in February 2018 and if we don’t get it, no number of barriers will stop us from storming this house,” she added.
Dr Peadar O’Grady, of Doctors for Choice, said the Citizens’ Assembly has shown Ireland is in favour of more liberal abortion laws.
“What was brilliant about the Citizens’ Assembly result is that when people were exposed to good information by people who had abortions and by people who provide abortion services,” said Dr O’Grady.
“The assembly could see the need for compassion, humanity and professionalism and they moved against the restrictions that everybody has said up until now are necessary,” he said.
“There was a lot of talk about the middle ground and that there are two extremes. The extremes are those who think you shouldn’t have an abortion whether you want it or not, or that you should have an abortion. Those two extremes are very rare. There is only one procedure in medicine that relies on the informed consent of the patient and that is abortion. That has got to change,” he said.
Gerry Edwards, of Terminations for Medical Reasons, called on people to contact their TDs to campaign for an abortion referendum.
“The Taoiseach Enda Kenny was lost for options when he came up with the Citizens’ Assembly and we were all cynical about the intentions of the Taoiseach, but he misjudged the temperature of the people of Ireland. Based on clear information, compassion is what has ruled and they have spoken and are clear about what the Government should do next,” said Mr Edwards.