Decision Time for the Citizens' Assembly


The Citizens’ Assembly is due to vote this weekend on whether to recommend any change to Ireland’s abortion laws. This will be the final meeting the Assembly will devote to consideration of the 8th Amendment, the constitutional provision that guarantees to protect the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn.


A spokeswoman for the Assembly said the weekend’s programme “will be focused exclusively on reaching these recommendations primarily by ballot paper voting.”


“It will comprise a number of steps, namely agreeing on the content and wording of the ballot paper and voting,” she said.


The secretariat of the Assembly has prepared a draft ballot paper for members to consider. They will debate and agree a final ballot paper before voting, though it is expected that the members will be faced with a number of choices.


“Voting will be in secret and the voting process and counting of ballot papers will be overseen by a former returning officer and their team,” the Assembly said.


It is not yet decided what the exact options on the ballot paper will be. Nor is it clear what the voting system will be.


However, the three basic options that will face delegates are to leave the constitutional ban on abortion as it is; to recommend that the ban be removed from the Constitution completely; or that article 40.3.3 should be amended to allow for greater access to abortion while retaining a constitutional prohibition of abortion in some cases.


These were outlined to the Assembly at its last meeting by senior counsel Brian Murray, in a paper described by Supreme Court Justice Mary Laffoy, who chairs the Assembly, as being of the “utmost importance”.


It is possible that different types of amendment of the amendment will be voted on by Assembly members.

The Irish Times. April 19.

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