University College Dublin Students’ Union (UCDSU) have sent in a submission to the Citizens’ Assembly advocating for a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment.
The submission follows a referendum held last week, in which UCD students voted against the adoption of a neutral stance by their SU on the issue of abortion. The referendum failed, with 64% voting against neutrality. The failure of the referendum, which saw a twofold increase in average turnout for student referenda over recent years, resulted in the UCDSU keeping its pro-choice stance that was adopted following a Union Council motion in 2014.
The UCDSU submission to the Citizens’ Assembly highlights concerns regarding the aftercare of Irish people who travel to the UK for an abortion. If complications arise after a procedure, “people don’t know where to go” and “feel that they have performed something illegal in the eyes of the law.” Attention is also drawn in the document to the thousands of Irish people who cannot afford to travel for an abortion procedure. This leads to many seeking medical abortifacients online. This does not only “place their health in danger,” but also puts them at risk of a jail sentence. The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill (2013) imposes a fourteen-year prison sentence on any woman that illegally procures an abortion in Ireland. The submission calls this a “severe and completely incongruent sentence,” considering that Irish people can legally avail of the same procedure in the UK.
The possibility of a lengthy prison sentence means that if a complication arises after taking a medical abortifacient, there is an increased risk of people not consulting their doctor. This is directly related to the 8th Amendment and “is a strong case for its repeal,” the submission argues.