Ireland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world: abortion is only permitted to save the life of the mother. That is about to change. In May 2018, by a referendum, the Irish people voted by a landslide majority to repeal the constitutional provision—the 8th amendment—that banned abortion and to empower the legislature to provide for abortion care in Ireland.
In 2017, a Citizen’s Assembly, 99 “Citizens” chosen by a random selection process to provide a geographical, gender, age balance, overseen by a senior judge, was convened to hear evidence from a wide variety of sources – medical, legal, activists on both sides of the issue.
The very liberal legislative model recommended by the Assembly inspired a subsequent parliamentary committee—which in its turn heard form medical and legal voices—to also recommend legislation to permit abortion on broad grounds. This led the government to call a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment.
The presentation will focus in particular on the ways in which health expertise, international best practice and public health evidence became tools of human rights advocacy. It will discuss the role of the Irish Family Planning Association in developing and using these tools, and, critically, in building the capacity and creating a community of healthcare practitioners who would become key advocates in the campaign to repeal the 8th amendment.
The presentation will also outline the new legal framework being proposed by the government, potential barriers to access and inequities in the system proposed. Finally, the presentation will discuss the challenges that now present us as we finally become committed, rights-based providers of abortion care.