Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has hit out at claims by the No side in the abortion referendum campaign.
Mr Varadkar said if the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution is repealed, the Government will introduce a safe, regulated doctor-led system in Ireland.
The Eighth Amendment was inserted into the Constitution after a referendum in 1983. The amendment guarantees to protect as far as practicable the equal right to life of the unborn and the mother. It prohibits abortion in almost all cases. Voters go to the polls on May 25th to decide whether or not to remove the provision from the Constitution and introduce legislation allowing for abortion in certain circumstances and without restriction in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Responding to some of the No campaign claims, Mr Varadkar said some assertions during 1995 divorce referendum proved to be false.
“In 1995 and I remember it well, there was a referendum on divorce in this country that was passed by the narrowest of margins. At the time there were placards that read ‘divorce aborts marriage’,” he said.
The Taoiseach was joined by colleagues in Dublin on Saturday to launch the Fine Gael Vote Yes campaign.
“We were told that if we introduced divorce in Ireland we would soon have a divorce rate like Britain, of thirty or forty per cent. But marriage in Ireland was not destroyed and in the years that followed the numbers of Irish people who got divorced did not skyrocket. All we did was give some people a second chance at happiness,” he said.
“When there was a referendum on marriage equality the same fears were raised. We were told marriage equality would wreck marriage and redefine it but three years later marriage in Ireland seems to be doing just fine,” he said.
Referring to a No campaign assertion on one of its referendum posters, Mr Varadkar added: “If we really believe the Eighth Amendment will result in five times as many women having an abortion - what does that say about us?
“ Do we seriously believe there are large number of women in this country who give birth every year and will suddenly decide to have an abortion just because it is legal to do so? If that is the case we think very little of our women and think very little of ourselves,” he added.
“We should be a country in which we trust women and trust doctors to decide on what’s right,” said Mr Varadkar.
“In Ireland we’ve spent much of the last few years atoning for historic wrongs that were done to women. Truth be told we still wrong women today. The Eighth Amendment does not prevent abortion, nine women travel to countries each day to end their pregnancies,” he said.
He said if the referendum is passed “there will not be unrestricted abortion”.
He said there will be a waiting period of 72 hours which does not exist in the UK “to allow for reflection” and the woman will receive counselling.
“In the Ireland of 2018 we still export our problems and import our solutions and in the Ireland of 2018 we still turn a cold shoulder to our sisters, daughters, nieces and colleagues,” he said.
“If the referendum does not pass, nothing can change for Irish women. 3-400 women will continue to travel abroad and the number of women taking abortion bills will rise in their home without medical supervision, It is hard to believe there hasn’t been the tragic death of a woman as result of taking abortion pills,” he said.
Minister for Health Simon Harris said the choice being put to voters is not whether they are pro- or anti-abortion as abortion is “unregulated and unsafe” with a lack of medical support.
“The choice is do you wish to make the situation in Ireland safe and regulated because it is currently neither,” he said.
He asked those on the No side who said there are “better answers” than the Government’s proposals on abortion “to publish those better answers.”
Fine Gael referendum co-ordinator, Josepha Madigan said it is 35 years since the introduction of the Eighth Amendment and said “its deep flaws have repeatedly been seen since then”.
Ms Madigan said she is a practicing Catholic but that the Eighth Amendment is “medieval in its import and cruel in its practical implication”.
She said it has done nothing to stop women availing of abortion services and forces women to go overseas “like cattle.”