Magazine article Conscience

The Irish Citizens' Assembly Addresses the Eighth Amendment

Magazine article Conscience

The Irish Citizens' Assembly Addresses the Eighth Amendment

Article excerpt

COMPOSED OF 99 CITIZENS selected at random from throughout the country, the Irish Citizens' Assembly convened over a number of successive weekends in January and February to address the issue of abortion access as it is codified in the Eighth Amendment of Ireland's Constitution. Broken into 14 roundtables with facilitators for each group, the assembly was chaired by Judge Mary Laffoy with the purpose of presenting data and perspectives on a number of topics with the hope of measuring public opinion and using the results of committee discussion and opinion to decide upon the necessity of a referendum on the given subjects.

In the case of abortion and the Eighth Amendment, three initial sessions on the topic were set to be held over consecutive weekends. After just the second session, however, Judge Laffoy indicated that the assembly's level of interest for the issue--coupled with the numerous facets requiring examination for the creation of informed opinions--necessitated an extra weekend, which she granted.

The first section of the Citizens' Assembly focused on fetal abnormalities as well as the specific legal parameters and guidelines pertaining to them. The selected citizens reviewed 300 written opinions and testimonies on the subject of abortion selected at random from a larger sample of 13,500. Reports state that many participants were "taken aback" at the large number of submissions received from religious institutions; two tables were vocal in their critique of antiabortion submissions, and one table held the "unanimous view" that the majority of antiabortion submissions "offered no solutions. …

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