Varadkar rejects ‘hard cases’ suggestions from No campaign

Some FF TDs say different amendment could allow for abortion in more limited circumstances

Speaking in the Dáil, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that he believes voters will "see through" a "tactic" from the No campaign calling for new laws to allow for abortion in "hard cases".


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has rejected suggestions from No campaigners that new laws to allow for abortion in “hard cases” of rape and fatal foetal abnormalities could be brought forward if the referendum is defeated on Friday.

Speaking in the Dáil after recent suggestions from some No campaigners that the law could be changed to allow for abortion in exceptional cases, Mr Varadkar said it was “not a realistic alternative – it is just a tactic and I believe the Irish people will see through it”.

It was Ireland’s “hard laws that create hard abortion cases,” Mr Varadkar said.

Some Fianna Fáil TDs, who are opposed to abortion, have suggested a different amendment to the Constitution could allow for abortion in more limited circumstances than the Government proposes.

The Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte, who made the suggestion last week, said she had been backed by members of her own party and the Government, while her party colleague John McGuinness supported her call.

Criminal penalties

Galway TD Éamon Ó Cuív said the criminal penalties for women who procure an abortion in the current legislation (though it has never been used) should be changed.

Campaigners against repeal of the Eighth Amendment have also suggested that legislative change to allow for abortion in hard cases could be introduced if the proposal to amend the constitution was defeated on Friday.

Yesterday, speaking at a Love Both press conference in Dublin, obstetrician Trevor Hayes said if there was a No vote, the Government would have to “go back to the drawing board to secure legislation for exceptional cases”.


He said many people who were against abortion wanted to show compassion to people confronted with difficult situations but they should know the Government would “have to come back with a proposal” to deal with such cases if the referendum was defeated.

He said the Government “had an opportunity to craft legislation for hard cases, but they chose not to”.

However, the Taoiseach and other Yes campaigners pointed to the advice of the last two attorneys general that no change in the law allowing for abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormally could be permitted under the existing Eighth Amendment, as such a law would be unconstitutional. The last government, as well as this one, repeatedly blocked Private Members’ Bills that sought to ease the law on abortion because it said they were in conflict with the Constitution, specifically with the amendment.

Opinion polls

The move from some parts of the No campaign to soften their objection to abortion in the hard cases comes very late in the referendum campaign and following signs in several opinion polls that the Yes side is on course to win.

Yes campaigners have stressed the need to deal with the hard cases, while in recent days the No campaign has sought to persuade voters that the Government proposals go “too far” and are “too extreme”. Suggesting that the law could be changed in future is designed to appeal to voters who believe the law should be changed, but are uncomfortable with the proposed legalisation of abortion on request up to 12 weeks.

Senior No campaign figures say they want to move the focus from the hard cases to the general availability of abortion up to 12 weeks under the Government’s proposals.

Only two days of campaigning remain before voters go to the polls on Friday, and both sides are appealing to their supporters to make sure they turn out on the day. Turnout has varied widely in past referendums and will have strong bearing on the outcome of Friday’s vote.

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