Ireland considers revisiting near-total ban on abortion

A group of Irish citizens brought together by Parliament is planning to revisit the country's constitutional near-total ban on abortion after receiving thousands of comments from the public over the divisive law.

(REUTERS / Cathal McNaughton)Pro-Life campaigners demonstrate outside the Irish Parliament ahead of a vote to allow limited abortion in Ireland, Dublin in this file photo taken on July 10, 2013.

The Citizens' Assembly, a 100-member group under the leadership of Supreme Court judge Mary Laffoy, has been mandated by Parliament to examine the medical, legal and ethical issues concerning abortion. The move sends the message that Ireland's near-total ban on abortion, which has been in effect since 1983, might be revisited and changed, The New York Times suggests.

Ireland's constitutional ban on abortion was enacted after a voter referendum. It can only be changed through another referendum.

In the last three months, the Citizens' Assembly has received thousands of comments and testimonies from experts regarding abortion. The group is set to release a report on the submissions within the year.

One of the cases which have swayed public opinion on the abortion ban was the death of 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar in 2012. A hospital had refused to perform what could have been a life-saving abortion on her, and she died of septic shock while she miscarried.

Last year, the United Nations ruled that Ireland's abortion ban violates women's rights because it forces them to have the procedure done in other countries even if the unborn child has severe congenital defects. Nevertheless, supporters of the ban believe that abortion "is the taking of human life irrespective of the stage of pregnancy."

In light of the possible reconsideration of the near-total abortion ban in Ireland, Life Site encouraged all pro-life advocates to take a stand to defend the law. Last month, pro-life leaders asked the public to also send their submissions to the assembly.

"We want organizations and people from all over the world — especially those of Irish descent — to tell the Irish government how dreadful it would be to see the protection that Ireland is well known for providing the unborn damaged in any way," Society for the Protection of Unborn Children international director Maria Madise told Life Site last month.

The Irish Parliament is expected to hold a referendum on altering the country's controversial abortion ban by the spring of 2018.

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