Abortion amendment removal bid is for next Dáil - Varadkar

Minister rejects move by Ruth Coppinger to delete eighth amendment from Constitution

Introducing the Thirty-Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2015, Socialist Party TD Ruth Coppinger said cases had emerged, due to the 1983 abortion amendment, which had appalled people throughout the country and internationally. File photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

Introducing the Thirty-Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2015, Socialist Party TD Ruth Coppinger said cases had emerged, due to the 1983 abortion amendment, which had appalled people throughout the country and internationally. File photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

 

A referendum to remove the 1983 abortion amendment from the Constitution should be a matter for the next Dáil, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said.

He said parties would then have a fresh mandate from the people for their policies.

“I do not want it to be an election or pre-election issue,’’ Mr Varadkar added. “It needs to be dealt with sensitively.”

The controversial amendment acknowledges the right to life of the unborn with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother.

The Minister rejected in the Dáil a Private Member’s Bill, moved by Socialist Party TD Ruth Coppinger, to delete the eighth amendment, Article 40.3.3, from the Constitution.

She said if the referendum was carried, the Dáil could then draft legislation, as it saw fit, to permit abortion in the State.

Introducing the Thirty-Fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2015, Ms Coppinger said cases had emerged, due to the amendment, which had appalled people throughout the country and internationally.

There was the tragic death of a young woman in her prime, Savita Halappanavar, which had brought 20,000 people on to the streets, she said.

“Still, the political establishment did not listen to the demands for change,’’ Ms Coppinger added.

Termination refused

She said a woman who requested a termination was refused and left to suffer as only her health and not her life was deemed to be in danger. “The gamble went wrong and she died tragically,’’ she added.

Ms Coppinger said last summer there was “the effective torture of the most vulnerable person one could imagine’’ - a teenage migrant made pregnant by rape and who was suicidal.

“She begged the authorities in this country to allow her to have an abortion and was instead forced to deliver a baby almost at full term, making a mockery of the cowardly voting in of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, which we were told would permit abortion in such cases,’’ she added.

‘Obscenity’ last Christmas

Ms Coppinger said there was the “obscenity’’ last Christmas of a family being forced to go to the courts to be allowed to bury their daughter, who was clinically dead but pregnant, and being kept alive artificially by doctors who were in fear and who cited the eighth amendment.

“How much longer can the political establishment in this country hold to a barbaric, medieval law which equates a woman with a foetus and leads to these situations ?” she asked.

Ms Coppinger said it was not just the so-called hard cases which required change.

“As we speak, 13 women are packing their bags and leaving this country in secrecy, in stigma and at huge personal cost to themselves and their families,’’ she added.