The 100-strong Citizens' Assembly has been listening to recordings of emotional testimonies by six women whose lives have been affected by the legal restrictions on abortion here.

Some said they made the correct decision when they got terminations abroad while others said they were glad that they had not ended their pregnancies.

The Citizens' Assembly is undertaking its most intensive weekend of deliberations to date on the Constitution's restrictions on abortion.

But the body's secretariat revealed that no direct testimony will be heard from any woman who regrets having had a termination.

The secretariat said the six women chosen to relay to members their personal experiences of a termination are representative of the submissions received from the public on the controversial topic.

The assembly protected the women's identities but they told their stories in their own voices. 

The assembly, headed by Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, will hear from 17 advocacy groups across five sessions at this weekend's meeting on the Eighth Amendment.

Ms Justice Laffoy has warned that the legal clarity that assembly members have been seeking about the future of the Eighth Amendment is very hard to achieve.

She said constitutional law by its very nature is open to interpretation.

In one testimony, a woman said how she was faced with either entering a shot-gun wedding or taking her own life. She said that she would have gladly had an abortion if it was available in Ireland at the time.

She said: "Of course I would have, I would have been straight there under the stresses I was under. And my child wouldn’t be here today. And look at those two precious grandchildren. Like the joys you get.

"It’s hard, but it’s doable when you recover. I mean, it hasn’t been easy but I would hate to think where my life would have gone had I had an abortion and having the guilt of that. Especially when you realise later on that this was a real baby. It wasn’t a foetus ... It was a real baby."

Another woman said she and her husband were neither mentally or financially able to have a third child and ended up having to get funding from a loan shark to get an abortion in Liverpool.

She said: "I couldn’t mentally cope with another child. I was just about beginning to breath and I was just beginning to see my own worth. Having a child is one of the hardest things that anybody on this planet will ever do.

"Being responsible for the happiness and the health and well-being of another individual ... I already knew what was required to do the job properly and at that time and since I know that I didn’t want to do that job again."

Assembly hears about the role of Article 40.3.3

This morning's presentations were legal sessions, the first from Emily Egan SC was on "The role of Article 40.3.3 in medical and parental decision-making".

Emily Egan said there have been limited legal cases on the rights of a foetus

She said Article 40.3.3 may confer other rights on the foetus, but it is difficult to say what those are as there have been limited legal cases.

On the right to refuse medical treatment, she said it was not clear that Article 40.3.3 provided a basis for restricting the woman's right to refuse treatment in pregnancy to protect the health of the unborn.

However, there may be an arguable case that if the treatment is necessary to protect the life of the unborn, then the Eighth Amendment may provide for that treatment in the absence of the mother's consent.

The second presentation by John O’Dowd, Law Lecturer in UCD, looked at "The Constitutional Rights of the Unborn Within and Beyond the Eighth Amendment".

John O'Dowd gave the second presentation today

Mr O'Dowd presented information on the constitutional protection for the unborn, touching on several issues of constitutional interpretation that have not yet been resolved by the courts.

He also looked at the role of the history of the Eighth Amendment in judicial interpretation, aspects of the decision of the Supreme Court in Roche v Roche, the extent to which a constitutional right to life for the unborn was recognised prior to the Eighth Amendment, and competing judicial views on the content of the constitutional rights of the unborn.

Brian Murray SC hosted a session focused on "Legal Consequences of Retention, Repeal, or Amendment of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution".

Mr Murray told the assembly that there are three top-level possibilities: retain the Eighth Amendment or repeal and not replace, or amend it.

Brian Murray spoke about legal consequences of retention, repealing or changing the Eighth

He said that before 1983, there was a widely held view that right to life of the unborn was protected by the Constitution, although this protection was not expressly provided for.

This had also been expressed by some judges, he said.

Ms Justice Laffoy said Mr Murray's paper was of the "utmost importance" and was the most important legal paper to be presented at the Citizens Assembly.

Later this afternoon, the assembly will hear six seven-minute-long edited versions of audio interviews with women who have been directly affected by the controversial 1983 amendment that provided for the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn.

The group includes women who have had a crisis pregnancy and women who have received a diagnosis of a life-limiting condition in the foetus.

At a pre-sitting briefing, a spokesperson for the assembly's secretariat revealed that no direct testimony will be heard from a woman who regrets having had a termination.

She said the body's Chairperson is satisfied that that viewpoint will be covered tomorrow by an advocacy group called "Women Hurt" when it joins 16 other groups in addressing the Assembly tomorrow.

This morning Ms Justice Laffoy explained that this weekend is the last where substantive material will be presented to the assembly.

The fifth and final weekend on the topic will focus solely on formulating, agreeing and voting on the recommendations that the assembly will present to the Oireachtas.