Senior barrister warns Eighth Amendment committee of inherent ‘legal uncertainties’

Nuala Butler SC

Nuala Butler SC

A senior barrister has warned the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment that all of the options under consideration for abortion law reform involve significant legal uncertainty.

Nuala Butler SC was commissioned to provide a legal opinion on each of the six options identified by the committee, The Irish Times reports.

Ms Butler told the committee that replacing the amendment with a new constitutional provision allowing for abortion in certain circumstances would “prove very difficult”.

She said allowing abortion in case of fatal foetal abnormality or pregnancy as a result of rape or incest would cause “practical problems … as to how they should be established and to whose satisfaction”.

Ms Butler said repealing the amendment and legislating to specify the grounds on which it would be allowed was “really a political rather than a legal exercise”, as there would be no legal obligation on the Oireachtas to enact the legislation and it may not pass.

Simply repealing the amendment, she said, would provide “a degree of immediate legal certainty” in the short term.

This would mean the law governing abortion would be the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act, which could be amended by the Oireachtas.