The Government has distanced itself from claims by Tánaiste Simon Coveney that women seeking a termination after nine weeks of pregnancy will have to undergo a scan.
Mr Coveney had outlined his expectation that the operation of an abortion regime would be coupled with medical guidelines and these would include a requirement for a scan between nine and 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Speaking after the Government confirmed a May 25th date for the referendum, Minister for Health Simon Harris insisted no such requirement would be enforced.
Mr Harris said the need for a scan will always be at the discretion of the doctor and will not be obligatory.
The Tánaiste told The Irish Times his decision to support the proposal to allow for access to terminations up to 12 weeks was conditional on a number of additional safeguards
“There is a role for politicians and there is a role for doctors. So the legislation is what the Government is proposing and that legislation will exist in co-operation with clinical guidance,” he said. “What the Tánaiste was doing was sharing with the people through the airwaves what clinicians are telling him and that is that they would be more likely to refer a woman for a scan the further on she is.”
Mr Coveney’s position on abortion legislation continued to dominate the discussion on the Eighth Amendment yesterday.
The Tánaiste told The Irish Times his decision to support the proposal to allow for access to terminations up to 12 weeks was conditional on a number of additional safeguards being put in place.
These included the introduction of a 72-hour waiting period, prohibition on late-term abortions and permitting access to abortion pills up to 12 weeks of gestation, allowed him to change his position, said Mr Coveney.
In response, Mr Harris said he did not intend to spend the next eight weeks of the campaign answering “the same question about individual politicians”.
The Minister also confirmed the referendum would be held on Friday, May 25th after the Bill passed all stages in the Seanad.
Voters are being asked to check the register to assess if they are eligible to vote. Mr Harris said it is crucial that people turn out to vote. “ If you feel as strongly as we do that there needs to be change in this area, you need to come out and vote.”
It's not a solution for everyone, but we're almost afraid to talk about adoption now
Mr Harris predicted the result would be tight but said he was confident people would vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
The Referendum Commission would be crucial in the campaign, Mr Murphy said, but it would be up to it to decide if it should have a role in policing information distributed on social media. The commission was independent of Government and he would not instruct it on what it should or should not do.
Separately, a Fine Gael junior minister has urged women in crisis pregnancies to think of adoption.
“It’s not a solution for everyone, but we’re almost afraid to talk about adoption now,” said Minister of State John Paul Phelan, who spoke at the launch of myadoptionstory.ie, a website designed to promote the option of adoption for women in crisis pregnancies. “It should be back on the radar and it should be discussed.”
The organisation was set up by former Fine Gael senator Fidelma Healy-Eames, who lost the party whip in the Seanad in 2013 over her opposition to the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act.
Meanwhile, the anti-abortion group Save the 8th will officially launch its campaign on Thursday.