Thursday, December 5, 2013

Submission to Constitutional Convention

Cork Women’s Right to Choose Group

Submission to the Convention on the Irish Constitution

For a referendum to repeal Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution

About Cork Women’s Right to Choose Group

1. Cork Women's Right To Choose is a long-standing single-issue group; a loose alliance of women and men who believe that a woman has the right to control her fertility. We believe that abortion should be treated as a health issue and not as a criminal law matter. We campaign for full safe and legal access to abortion and reproductive health services for all women in Ireland regardless of income, age, sexuality, race, ability, geography, immigration status, or culture. We are a voluntary, not-for-profit lobby and direct action organisation.

Executive summary

2. Under the Resolution of the Houses of the Oireachtas of July, 2012, the Constitutional Convention is required to examine a range of issues and make other recommendations as it sees fit. Cork Women’s Right to Choose Group asks the Constitutional Convention to include consideration of Article 40.3.3 of Bunreacht na hÉireann in its deliberations, and to then recommend there be a referendum to remove this article from the Constitution

3. We make this request on the basis that the Constitution should reflect the reality of the lives of Irish citizens – and this Article manifestly does not.

The facts

4. At least 150,000 women have been forced to travel to the UK for an abortion since the Eighth Amendment was passed in 1983. In the past few years the thousands who still travel abroad have been joined by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of women who are procuring the RU 486 “abortion pill” over the internet. They are then self-administering at home without suitable medical supervision and thereby putting their health in danger.

5. Alongside this social reality that somewhere between 10 to 15% of women in Ireland today have had an abortion, opinion polls in recent years consistently show a significant majority of people living in the Republic favour an extension of abortion rights. This parallels the latest research into the opinions of GPs and medical students which also shows a clear majority in favour of extending abortion rights.

6. These figures highlight the clear social need for this generally straight-forward medical procedure to be made freely available in Ireland.

For social justice

7. Migrant women, women with little or no income, women with disabilities or who are unable to travel for whatever reason, women facing a pregnancy with a medical diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality have all suffered disproportionately over the past three decades.

8. The constraints of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution led to the new legislation on abortion rights, the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, prohibiting abortion in cases of rape, incest, inevitable miscarriage and fatal foetal abnormality, while women or girls who are suicidal as a result of unwanted pregnancy will most likely travel abroad rather than seek an abortion here under its terms. This Constitutional straightjacket ignores the needs of women who decide that having an abortion is in their best interest, and in the form of the new Act criminalises women and those who support them, including their doctors, if they access abortion here in Ireland.

9. As Alan Shatter's observed in the Dáil on 27th November 2012:

“There is no impediment to men seeking and obtaining any required medical intervention to protect not only their lives but also their health and quality of life ... It can truly be said that the right of pregnant women to have their health protected is, under our constitutional framework, a qualified right ... This is a republic in which we proclaim the equality of all our citizens but the reality is that some citizens are more equal than others.”


10. Women’s rights should be reinforced and not qualified or restricted by the Constitution. It is time women in Ireland were treated as valued individuals with full and equal human rights. Termination of pregnancy should therefore be treated as a women’s health matter and not a criminal or constitutional one. Cork Women’s Right to Choose Group want to see a legal framework that really meets women’s needs and reflects the importance of women’s rights by providing for free and safe abortion on this island available for all women who require it.

11. We therefore call on the Constitutional Convention to stand with the majority of the Irish population who support an extension to abortion rights within the State by recommending there be a referendum to remove Article 40.3.3.


Other pro-choice submissions to the Constitutional Convention - Available on the Constitutional Convention web site: