Abortion will remain restricted ‘to certain circumstances’ even with repeal - Minister

Simon Harris confirms referendum will take place before end of May

Roscommon-Galway Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice reaffirmed his opposition to the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Roscommon-Galway Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice reaffirmed his opposition to the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Abortion will remain restricted to certain circumstances even if the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution is repealed and terminations are made lawful up to 12 weeks, the Minister for Health has said.

Simon Harris also confirmed the referendum would take place before the end of May.

The Minister told the Dáil the Government’s proposal was to make terminations “safely and legally available in this country in more circumstances than it is now but it will remain restricted to certain circumstances”.

Winding up the debate on the report of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment, Mr Harris said the proposal aimed “to make terminations lawful up to 12 weeks in order to provide care to those women in crisis pregnancies who might otherwise be forced to travel, to take the abortion pill unsupervised, or who have been raped”.

But he said: “There will be restrictions though, such as the involvement of a medical practitioner, a restriction that does not exist today in relation to the abortion pill.

“Beyond the first trimester abortions will only be available in exceptional circumstances set out in the committee’s recommendations and following the assessment of two medical professionals.”

He stressed that “in all other circumstances abortion will remain unlawful”.

Mr Harris was responding to the debate taken over a period of weeks on the committee’s report and recommendations. The debate was scheduled to finish three weeks ago, but concerns were expressed that a number of people who wished to speak were unaware the debate was due to finish.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice re-affirmed his opposition to the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. “The 12 weeks is a big worry to a lot of people to put it bluntly,” he said of the proposal to allow abortions on request up to 12 weeks.

The Roscommon-Galway TD said he was worried that the decision on abortion will “now be removed, that the Irish people won’t have a vote again” after this referendum and that “it will be put into the hands of the political class now and into the future for whatever time and limits” are put on it.

He said: “The people of Ireland need to have it very clear that when they go to the polls in a referendum they will decide once and for all that they will be giving the power to the TDs in this Dáil.”

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said the debate should remain mindful and respectful. He said abortion was a subject that was “emotive, divisive and which polarises public opinion”.

He hoped the Eighth Amendment would be repealed but he said that whatever the outcome, he hoped it would be a debate “which is tolerant, compassionate and respectful” to all who chose to participate.