Simon Coveney now in favour of abortion up to 12 weeks

In a significant change of position, Tánaiste said Ireland needed ‘a law based in reality’


Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has backed proposals for unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

In late January Mr Coveney said he favoured repeal of the Eighth Amendment, but would not go as far as supporting unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks. In a significant shift Mr Coveney on Monday said he will now support the 12 week proposal “if it is coupled with strict medical guidelines.”

Writing in The Irish Independent, Mr Coveney said “we need a law based in reality that recognises that thousands of women have abortions every year, at home with drugs purchased online or abroad without support.”

“If we do nothing, we know pills will continue be purchased online and taken without medical advice or supervision. We cannot knowingly allow this to continue, given the dangers involved” he said.

The Government has proposed to legislate for pregnancy terminations up to 12 weeks for any reason, and afterwards if there is a risk to the physical or mental health of the woman, or where there is a foetal condition likely to result in death before or shortly after birth.

A referendum on whether to repeal the the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution, which places a constitutional right to life on the unborn child, is set to be held on May 25th.


People with “legitimate questions” around the 12 week proposal are being dismissed as “dinosaurs or anti-women” Mr Coveney wrote.

“This referendum campaign needs fewer media cheerleaders or scaremongers and more facts” he said, adding “it is easy to see why many people won’t engage in the debate at all, but wait and have their say privately in the ballot box.”

After initially refusing to support the Government’s stance on the 12 week limit, Mr Coveney said he had been “overwhelmed” by the number of people stopping him in public or in Leinster House sharing his concerns.

Mr Coveney said he has come around to the Government’s position, if there are “strict medical guidelines” and a clinical protocol “followed in every case when an abortion is requested.”

“Clinicians have assured me such a protocol should be based on the principle of ‘informed consent’, and would require a doctor to lay out all information and options in an impartial way to a woman who requests an abortion.”

There should be a pause period of between two to three days after a woman requests an abortion “to ensure a fully considered decision,” he wrote.

The process “will allow the State to outline the alternatives to abortion and support women who choose those alternatives,” Mr Coveney wrote.

Many peoples’ views on the issue of abortion have evolved “as the facts and cruel inadequacy of our current laws are exposed”, and a Yes vote in the upcoming referendum will allow for legislation that protects women in the appropriate way, Mr Coveney said.


A spokesperson for the Save the 8th campaign accused the Tánaiste of a U-turn in his opinion on Repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

Niamh Uí Briain told RTÉ’s News at One it was evident that Mr Coveney had a change of heart as the Government was “scrambling” to save the repeal campaign.

The Government’s proposal was “extreme”, she said, and would result in an abortion regime more liberal than that of the UK.

“Repeal is not just words on a jumper. It is about abortion on demand for the first three months.”

Ms Uí Bhriain said that Mr Coveney “was not fooling anybody” when just weeks ago he had said he was opposed to the proposal.

“Politicians are asking us to give them control. How can voters trust politicians when they are flip-flopping on this?

“What will they do going forward if we give them control of our abortion laws?”