Voters need to be convinced on abortion change, says Doherty

‘We need to explain how we reached proposal to allow for terminations up to 12 weeks’

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said: “Those who advocate for change need to explain to people how we reached the proposal to allow for terminations up to 12 weeks.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said: “Those who advocate for change need to explain to people how we reached the proposal to allow for terminations up to 12 weeks.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

A senior Cabinet Minister has said the referendum on the Eighth Amendment will be lost if those in favour of change do nothing.

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty, told The Irish Times those who wanted the Constitution changed needed to explain how the proposal to allow for terminations on request up to 12 weeks of pregnancy was arrived at.

The Eighth Amendment enshrined the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn into the Constitution in 1983. Ms Doherty is a strong advocate for changing the Constitution.

“Those who advocate for change need to explain to people how we reached the proposal to allow for terminations up to 12 weeks,” she said.

“I was making the point that if we did nothing, then it could fail. But we will be doing something. I and others will be campaigning very strongly in favour of change.

“I believe the referendum can and will pass. I, and members of the Government, will campaign for it. But we can’t be complacent, which is why I said earlier that we have a job of work to do to sell it.”

She said many people were not aware of the medical and scientific evidence that was presented to the Citizens’ Assembly, and the Committee on the Eighth Amendment, “which helped us arrive at the current proposal”.

She added: “We need to help people realise that there is clear medical evidence to support the Committee’s recommendations in relation to 12 weeks. That needs to be explained clearly to people with reasons and evidence, so there is a job of work to be done there.”

Ms Doherty was clarifying remarks made earlier to RTÉ, when she said: “Standing right now, if nobody does anything, I don’t think this referendum will pass.

“We need to sell, as advocates of people who want to see the Constitution changed and the 12-weeks imposed, that needs to be sold to people and the reasons why that 12-weeks figure was come at needs to be explained clearly to people with reasons and evidence.

“There is definitely a job of work to be done.”

The Government supports repealing the Eighth Amendment. However, Ministers are divided on what legislation should replace it.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Minister for Health Simon Harris, Ms Doherty and most other Ministers support the proposal to allow for terminations on request up to 12 weeks.

However, Tánaiste Simon Coveney and some other Ministers do not support the proposition. Mr Coveney has stated he favours abortions in cases of rape and when a mother’s life is at risk.

Meanwhile, deputy chairperson of the Pro Life Campaign, Cora Sherlock, has said she does not believe the current proposals on the referendum are something the public will accept.

Ms Sherlock said it did not matter whether the Government put forward a proposal for 10 weeks, 12 weeks or 18 weeks. “What you are really talking about is abortion on demand,” she told RTÉ.