Minister for Health wants abortion referendum next year

Harris says issue of fatal foetal abnormalities should be addressed by this Government

Minister for Health Simon Harris. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

Minister for Health Simon Harris. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

 

Minister for Health Simon Harris has stressed his desire to see a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment of the Constitution next year.

Mr Harris was speaking after the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled Ireland’s legislation on abortion violated a woman’s human rights.

Siobhán Whelan took the case after she was forced to travel to the UK for an abortion after her baby was diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality.

Mr Harris said the report was being reviewed by his department and a formal submission would be prepared. He said it was his belief that the issue of fatal foetal abnormalities should be addressed by this Government.

“I have met with families who have been through the trauma of knowing their baby will not survive and I have been very moved by hearing of their experiences,” he told The Irish Times.

“There can hardly be a more difficult situation for a woman who is pregnant to face than to be told by her doctor that her unborn child is not fully healthy and well, and is not likely to survive.

“These families have had the courage and fortitude to share their stories in the hope of saving other people some of the pain they themselves endured.”

Mr Harris said there was now an urgency to establishing the Oireachtas committee tasked with examining the eighth amendment, which gives equal rights to the life of the unborn and the mother.

The committee has yet to commence its work as it must await the delivery of the report of the Citizen’s Assembly report, which is due to arrive within a manner of weeks.

It will be given three months to hear evidence and will then be tasked with recommending whether a referendum should be held.

The verdict from the UN follows reports of a young girl being sectioned under the Mental Health Act when she sought a termination.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on health Billy Kelleher said this case raised concerns about the application of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.