A Citizens’ Assembly, consisting of 99 randomly selected citizens and one chairperson, has been tasked with making recommendations on a possible referendum to repeal Ireland’s eighth amendment—a constitutional ban on abortion. Abortion is currently illegal, except in cases in which the life of the woman is in danger, with a complete ban only having been repealed in 2013, according to the Irish Times.
The assembly has until June 2017 to report back to the Dail. Even if the assembly comes to an agreement on the referendum, parliament would still need to vote on whether it agrees with the recommendation, possibly postponing a referendum until 2018, according to Reuters. The creation of the assembly has been criticized by both sides— anti-abortion activists believe the government is paving the way to repeal of the abortion ban, whereas abortion rights activists argue that the government is using the assembly to stall what will ultimately be its own decision, TIME reported.
Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh responded to the motion to repeal the amendment by stating that the abortion ban is a “declaration of tenderness and love for the equal right to life of both a mother and her unborn child,” according to Catholic News Agency. But the influence from the church has been in constant decline, as Ireland becomes increasingly secular; a recent poll completed by the Irish Times found that 75 percent of respondents are in favor of repealing the ban to allow for abortion in limited circumstances. The poll came after the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that Ireland’s eighth amendment “violated the human rights of women,” according to America magazine.
In September, more than 20,000 people gathered in rainy Dublin in support of the eighth amendment’s repeal at the March for Choice, making it one of the biggest pro-choice demonstrations Ireland has seen, according to the Irish Times. Similar demonstrations were held in solidarity around the world. “In 1916 people dreamed of a better Ireland, one of self-determination and the right to choose their own destiny. A hundred years later, we’re still fighting for that right; there can be no freedom without bodily autonomy,” said Linda Kavanagh of the Abortion Rights Campaign.