Senator Alice-Mary Higgins welcomes Report calling for Repeal of the Eighth Amendment

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins joined her colleagues in the Civil Engagement Group in welcoming the report of the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. She repeated her call for a simple repeal of the eighth amendment and for the availability of full reproductive healthcare options for women in Ireland.

Senator Higgins commended the citizens assembly and the members of the committee who contributed to the report, in particular the exemplary work of the committee chair Senator Catherine Noone and her Civil Engagement group colleague Senator Lynn Ruane.

A referendum on a simple repeal of the eighth amendment would give the Irish people an opportunity to decide that the constitution is not the place to deal with abortion or reproductive health. Regardless of your position on abortion, it is appropriate that it be dealt with through legislation rather than through the constitution.

She highlighted the diversity of women who sought abortion; the committee were told that 70% of Irish women who sought abortion in the UK were married or with a partner and almost half of the women had one or more child. 

Abortion should not be a divisive issue but it is a diverse issue. Each pregnancy experienced by each woman and each decision to terminate a pregnancy is unique. That decision may take place in the context of that own woman's life and circumstances which may include rape, mental or physical health issues or complex personal situations. 

Senator Higgins also spoke of how the eighth amendment restricted doctors seeking to fully care for their patients. Difficult decisions are being made in hospitals everyday. Repeal of the eighth amendment will give doctors and women the needed scope to make those difficult decisions as best they can.

The international evidence clearly demonstrates that the criminalising of abortion is not the way to prevent abortion. The ancillary recommendations of the report speak to the international evidence of how to reduce the number of women experiencing crisis pregnancies and thus the number of abortions taking place. These recommendations include free access to contraception, provision of scan and comprehensive sex education for young people. 

Trust needs to be the key word in this debate. The state needs to trust women but the state also needs to earn the trust of women.

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