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Amnesty welcomes landmark Citizens’ Assembly result and calls for abortion reform across Ireland

Amnesty International has welcomed the landmark vote of the Citizens’ Assembly in the Republic of Ireland that the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution, which gives equal rights to a foetus as to a woman, should be removed and that the Oireachtas should have unrestricted power to legislate for abortion.  The Assembly also voted by a two-thirds majority that women and girls should have access to abortion on request at least in early pregnancy.

Colm O’Gorman, Amnesty International Ireland Executive Director said: “This is a truly momentous leap forward for the human rights of women and girls in Ireland. The outcome of the Citizens’ Assembly confirms what our independent polling has shown; that there is majority support for abortion reform. The ball is now firmly in the Irish Government’s court. The Assembly has voted that the Oireachtas should be exclusively empowered to legislate on abortion, and that this legislation must be expansive. The Irish Government must immediately establish a timeframe for a referendum to make this happen.”.

Opinion polls published in both Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland show majority support for abortion reform, including the decriminalisation of abortion. Amnesty UK is urging politicians engaged in the talks’ process in Northern Ireland and the next UK Government to fulfil their human rights obligations to women and girls and reform abortion laws which are in significant violation of their human rights responsibilities.

Grainne Teggart, Northern Ireland Campaign Manager for Amnesty UK added: “The Citizens’ Assembly result is a landmark moment in the fight for women’s reproductive rights in Ireland; for too long women across this island have suffered because of our restrictive regimes on abortion. People across this island want abortion reform.

Ms Teggart added “We call on politicians in Northern Ireland and at Westminster to heed this progress and ensure that the law governing access to abortion in Northern Ireland fully complies with international human rights law, including the decriminalisation of abortion. Until this happens, abortion reform remains unfinished business, there can be no hiding from this issue.”


In October 2016, Amnesty published a poll showing that nearly three-quarters of people in Northern Ireland want to see abortion law reform. The results showed overwhelming support from all religious backgrounds and political affiliations for a major overhaul of the region’s restrictive abortion laws. Northern Ireland is the only place in the UK where abortion is banned in almost all cases.

72% of people think abortion should be available if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest; only 15% are opposed

67% of people think abortion should be available in cases of fatal foetal abnormality; just 17% are opposed

58% of people think abortion should be decriminalised so there would be no criminal penalty for women who have abortions in Northern Ireland; 22% are opposed to this change

59% of people think abortion should be decriminalised so there would be no criminal penalty for doctors and medical staff who assist women to have abortions in Northern Ireland; 21% are opposed to this change

75% of people think the fact that women from Northern Ireland who are seeking a lawful abortion must travel to England adds to their distress; 11% disagreed.

71% of people agreed that having to travel to England for a lawful abortion has a disproportionately negative impact on women with low income; 11% disagreed.


The polling was carried out in the week commencing 15 September 2016 by Millward Brown Ulster, using face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of 1,000 adults aged 16+, in multiple urban and rural locations across Northern Ireland.

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