FG deputy wants abortion article removed from Constitution

Olivia Mitchell says current regime is not working and satisfies no one’s aspirations

Olivia Mitchell: “The regime we have satisfies nobody’s aspirations and fails those involved again and again. The only way forward that I can see is to take [article 40.3.3] out of the Constitution altogethe. ” Photograph: Eric Luke / THE IRISH TIMES

Olivia Mitchell: “The regime we have satisfies nobody’s aspirations and fails those involved again and again. The only way forward that I can see is to take [article 40.3.3] out of the Constitution altogethe. ” Photograph: Eric Luke / THE IRISH TIMES

Fri, Aug 29, 2014, 01:07

A Fine Gael TD has said Ireland’s abortion regime is not working and a referendum to remove the eighth constitutional amendment is the only way to resolve the situation.

Olivia Mitchell, the first Fine Gael deputy to call for the repeal of the amendment, said a vote should not take place in the aftermath of the latest abortion controversy or before the next general election, to avoid a “knee-jerk” reaction.

“The regime we have satisfies nobody’s aspirations and fails those involved again and again. The only way forward that I can see is to take [article 40.3.3] out of the Constitution altogether,” she said. “That would have to be done by way of a referendum but would have to be preceded by a clear indication of what legislation would replace it. That should come about following a really informed debate, calmer than the one we have now.”

Right to life

The 1983 amendment enshrined the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn in the Constitution.

Ms Mitchell said people were very informed about the issue and had been “appalled” to learn of the case of the young woman who was refused an abortion and later her child was delivered by Caesarean section at 25 weeks.

No time limit stating how late into a pregnancy an abortion could be performed in cases where the woman is suicidal could be included in the recently enacted Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.

The Dublin South TD suggested new legislation might consider this area. “One of the things that I think people would want to give consideration to is the circumstances in which time limits might be imposed for abortion,” she said.

“It’s just unthinkable that we have left it wide open like that. We can’t limit it by law under the current Constitution . . . No matter what side people are on they know the current regime isn’t working.We must be the one country that’s debated this issue more than any other in the world, so it must be possible for us to come to some consensus”.

Asked for her personal view, Ms Mitchell said: “I would like to see the current circumstances where abortion is permitted extended to include fatal foetal abnormalities and rape. I realise many people don’t agree with that.”