Anti-abortion activist confronts Yes politicians at press conference

Harris: vote is about recognising abortion is a reality for Irish women

Abortion laws that would be introduced in the event of the repeal of the Eighth Amendment are ‘vastly different’ to those in place in the UK, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

Abortion laws that would be introduced in the event of the repeal of the Eighth Amendment are ‘vastly different’ to those in place in the UK, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

 

An anti-abortion activist confronted Minister for Health Simon Harris and other politicians supporting a Yes vote in the abortion referendum at a press conference in Dublin on Tuesday.

Tim Jackson, who described himself as a citizen journalist and a pro-life supporter, attended a cross-party gathering of politicians calling for a Yes vote on Friday.

Mr Jackson said the politicians, including the minister, should resign because they were supporting the “killing of unborn babies”.

The Minister did not respond. Speaking to The Irish Times afterwards, Mr Jackson said he came to the event to ask the questions the media declined to. “For a politician to propose it is okay to kill innocent human beings is not part of a civilised society,” he said.

Mr Jackson confronted a number of politicians outside the event asking questions about their position on abortion, including Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley and former tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

Speaking at the event, Mr Harris said this referendum is not a vote about whether you are in favour of abortion or not. It is a vote about recognising that abortion is a reality for Irish women here and abroad, the Minister said.

“We are determined to look after them here in our own country,” he added.

Members from Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Fine Gael, Social Democrats and the Green Party were present at the event, which called for a Yes vote on Friday.

Earlier, Mr Harris said abortion laws that would be introduced in the event of the repeal of the Eighth Amendment are “vastly different” to those in place in the UK.

The Minister also insisted that disability will not be a ground for having an abortion should there be a Yes vote in Friday’s referendum.

“People are grappling with this question, and they want to be sure they make the right decision. What I can tell the Irish people very clearly is we have specifically excluded disability as a grounds for termination,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.

“That is different to the UK. I see a lot of posters, and a lot of what I would consider misinformation comparing this referendum with the situation in the UK. What we’re proposing is vastly different to the UK.”

Anti-abortion campaigners contend that in the event of a Yes vote, the abortion of foetuses with chromosomal conditions such as Down syndrome and Edwards syndrome would occur within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Mr Harris said: “Yes, it is true to say that you can screen for certain disabilities from about nine or 10 weeks into pregnancy, and we’ve heard masters of our maternity hospital tell us that. We’ve also heard them tell us that is not the same as a diagnosis, and that you then have to wait a number of other weeks for a diagnosis.”

‘More vague’

Mr Harris also suggested that the laws in the UK regarding the health of the woman are “much more vague” than the proposals being put forward here.

Abortion will be illegal in all circumstances beyond early pregnancy in this country, except where there is a serious risk to the health or life of the woman.

“That serious risk will have to be certified by two doctors — one of whom will have to be an obstetrician, one of whom will have to be a specialist in the area where the woman’s medical condition is.”

He added that there were no amendments brought forward in the Dáil or Seanad to propose a different approach to the current referendum.

“The Eighth Amendment was put in I’m sure for good reasons — it’s hard for me to comprehend because I wasn’t born, let alone able to vote in 1983.

Ireland is a vastly different place now — and if people were voting to stop abortion, it clearly hasn’t worked. More than 170,000 women have travelled from every country in Ireland to have an abortion.”

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