Tánaiste pledges abortion vote if Labour back in power

It will be possible to get Dáil support for referendum on Eighth Amendment - Burton

Labour leader Joan  Burton said the Eighth Amendment should be repealed and abortion made available in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, threats to the life of the mother or very serious health complications for the mother and in cases of rape and incest. File photograph: Getty Images

Labour leader Joan Burton said the Eighth Amendment should be repealed and abortion made available in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, threats to the life of the mother or very serious health complications for the mother and in cases of rape and incest. File photograph: Getty Images

 

Tánaiste Joan Burton has expressed confidence that if Labour is returned to office after the next general election, the party will be in a position to secure enough support to bring forward a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the constitution prohibiting abortion.

Ms Burton pledged to secure Dáil support to offer the people the chance to repeal the amendment and allow for abortion in very specific circumstances if Labour forms part of the next government.

Speaking in Cork where she addressed the Labour Youth Annual Conference, Ms Burton said delegates had a discussion with her about repealing the Eighth Amendment and she pointed out that Labour under then leader Dick Spring had voted against the amendment.

“If elected to government, I want to secure agreement in a future government that we will, after due examination, offer our citizens through the medium of a referendum an opportunity to repeal the Eighth Amendment,” she said.

Fatal foetal abnormality

Ms Burton said the amendment should be repealed and abortion made available in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, threats to the life of the mother or very serious health complications for the mother and in cases of rape and incest.

“I believe working with like-minded political parties we could secure a majority for a Dáil vote to put the issue to the people. It’s a very sensitive, very emotional, very medically complex issue - I am very aware of the sensitivities that surround this issue but I think it is an issue that has to be addressed.

“The Eighth Amendment is not serving the best interests of women in Ireland and in my view, it should, by the consent and vote of the people, be removed from the Constitution and we should seek then a broad-based agreement on how to address these difficult emotional and medical issues.”

Earlier, former Fine Gael minister for health James Reilly said he believed a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment should be held early in the life of the next government, as he did not believe women should have to go to England for an abortion and then “sneak back in like criminals”.

Dr Reilly, a medical doctor, told the Sunday Independent that he “cannot countenance as a doctor or as a human being” a scenario whereby women are forced to go through with their pregnancies in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

“But most repugnant of all to me is that they have to leave their country for a termination and then sneak back in like a criminal to bring their babies’ remains back. That’s patently wrong,” he told the newspaper.