AIMS Ireland calls on the government to set a date for a referendum on the 8th amendment without delay. The Citizens Assembly has again proven that there is a strong desire for change and that there is a belief that all people in pregnancy should be given choice and full rights over what happens to their bodies.
AIMS Ireland would like to recognise the hard work, diligence and dedication of every member of the Citizens Assembly, who clearly, thoroughly considered all of the options put before them. AIMS Ireland Chair, Krysia Lynch said, “We believe the members were put in an impossible situation by the Government and that, while very interesting, the whole Citizens Assembly exercise is nothing more than an attempt by the government to avoid or at least delay the process of referendum or ‘kick the can down the road’.”
“The Citizens Assembly has no mandate from the people. Constitutionally, it has no mandate to inform legislation. In our opinion it is a dilution of democracy. It must be affected individuals themselves who decide.” added the AIMSI Chair.
AIMS Ireland feel very strongly that the 2 hugely relevant points failed to be discussed by the citizens Assembly:
- The effect of the 8th amendment on maternity care
- The effect of the 8th amendment on continued pregnancy, where a pregnant person has decided to continue her pregnancy to term.
“We feel these important points were not presented to the Citizens Assembly for deliberation and as a result the Citizens Assembly recommendations can not be seen as having taken all the issues into consideration” added Krysia Lynch.
Throughout its 10 years in existence, the Association for Improvements to the Maternity Services in Ireland has supported maternity service users through becoming pregnant, through pregnancy and beyond and have seen many cases of consent being overridden by the 8th amendment. Service users have told their stories and continue to tell their stories to us daily. People working within the maternity services have told of their constraints under the 8th. AIMS Ireland demands that the 8th amendment be repealed, not reworded or replaced, for the safety and wellbeing of all our citizens.
In 2014, AIMS Ireland carried out a survey of people’s experience of the maternity services. We had 3,000 respondents from all over Ireland. Only 50% of respondents felt were given an opportunity to make an informed refusal of a test, treatment or procedure in childbirth.
The country’s national consent policy states that “consent is required from all pregnant women for any health and social care interventions” however because of article 40.3.3 of the constitution, “there is legal uncertainty over her right to refuse treatment”. Therefore, the 8th affects every pregnancy in Ireland.
AIMSI recently queried Citizens Assembly Chair, Ms. Justice Laffoy, as to whether or not the 8th amendment can be used to legally justify a treatment or procedure taking place without a woman’s consent in a situation where the baby’s life is not in danger.
In a letter to AIMS Ireland, Ms Laffoy clarified that in the opinion of the legal expert, Emily Egan SC, the 8th amendment cannot serve as a legal justification for carrying out a procedure or treatment without consent, if the life of the foetus is not in danger. However we have seen in previous cases, namely Hamilton V HSE, that consent and whether it is given or not is a very grey area and up for interpretation. As far as AIMS Ireland is concerned, the 8th amendment is still used as a justification tool for overriding consent in the delivery room.
AIMS Ireland welcomes the clear views expressed by the Citizens Assembly regarding the separating of physical and mental health issues.