Oireachtas committee to recommend unrestricted abortions up to 12 weeks

Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton confirms her support for Eighth Amendment proposal

Fine Gael’s Hildegarde Naughton: “You cannot turn off the internet nor expect the gardaí to be waiting at our airports for women carrying abortion pills.” Photograph: Alan Betson

Fine Gael’s Hildegarde Naughton: “You cannot turn off the internet nor expect the gardaí to be waiting at our airports for women carrying abortion pills.” Photograph: Alan Betson

 

A majority of members of the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment have confirmed they will support abortions being made available without restriction up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton, who was considered an anti-abortion committee member, told The Irish Times she had changed her position due to the evidence heard.

She said the testimony confirmed the widespread access women across Ireland have to the abortion pill, the taking of which was putting lives at risk.

“You cannot turn off the internet nor expect the gardaí to be waiting at our airports for women carrying abortion pills,” she said.

“There is no practical way to stop the use of abortion pills in Ireland. That horse has bolted...We can either close our eyes to this, as usual, or actually deal with the dangers of unsupervised access to abortion pills. I choose the latter.”

‘Necessary’

Ms Naughton added: “It is not a comfortable decision for me but one that is necessary to protect the lives of women.”

The Fine Gael TD becomes the 10th of the 21 committee members to confirm her support for unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks. Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer is also to support such a recommendation by the committee, and it is expected Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan also will.

This position is supported by Fianna Fáil TDs Billy Kelleher and Lisa Chambers, Fianna Fáil Senator Ned O’Sullivan, Independents4Change TD Clare Daly, Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, Independent Senator Lynn Ruane, Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan, People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith and Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell.

The Fine Gael members will hold a meeting on Tuesday, before the committee starts voting on proposals on Wednesday. It is expected the members will vote in favour of repealing article 40.3.3 of the Constitution and allowing the Oireachtas to legislate for terminations. It will also support the decriminalisation of abortion, the provision of contraceptives free of charge, and to improving sex education in schools.

Abstain

It is understood the Sinn Féin representatives on the committee are seeking party approval to abstain on a vote allowing unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks. Currently the party’s position is to allow for terminations in the cases of rape, incest, fatal foetal abnormalities and when a mother’s life, health and mental health is at risk.

Officially, the party says it cannot go any further than that but The Irish Times understands a meeting will be held on Tuesday between the three members on the committee and a subgroup of its ardcomhairle.

The committee’s recommendations are not binding on the Government but Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health Simon Harris have stressed they would be guided by its report.

Fianna Fáil TDs James Browne and Anne Rabbitte have yet to declare their positions on the committee. Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick and independent Senator Rónán Mullen and Mattie McGrath TD will vote against any measure to remove the Eighth Amendment.