By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — After receiving an unprecedented 105,000 submissions, the Oireachtas all-party Committee on the Constitution began public hearings this week about possible legal changes on the abortion.
A spokesman for the 13-member Committee said it hopes to finish its hearings in June and to deliver a report to the government in September.
"We will be hearing from medical experts for the first week and then we will move into the second phase and hear from those individuals and organizations who made submissions," the spokesman said.
"Most of the 105,000 submissions we have received were letters, but we have also got very detailed documents."
A government review body last year received 10,000 submissions but could find no consensus on the issue when it issued a green paper.
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Some people wanted nothing done; others sought legal changes or a combination of legal changes and another constitutional referendum.
Abortion remains illegal except where there is a threat to the life of the mother, including suicide.
About 6,000 Irish women travel to British clinics for terminations every year.
There have been two amendments to the 1937 constitution since 1983, following pressure by pro-life groups that want to copper-fasten an abortion ban.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has pledged to take action on the matter. What must be avoided is what he called another "botched attempt" to tackle it.
Ahern said he could not remember any other issue during his time in politics that had resulted in such a huge response.
Independent TDs supporting his minority coalition are demanding action as the price of their continuing votes.
Earlier this year, Ahern’s live television keynote address to the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis was disrupted when a group of militant anti-abortion demonstrators breached security and waved placards around the podium.