State has a ‘once-in-a-generation chance to address abortion’ – FF TD

Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher says Ireland must stop ‘taking our shame, our tragedy, abroad’

 Fianna Fáil spokesman on health Billy Kelleher has said Ireland has a once-in-a-generation chance to deal with the issue of abortion. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Fianna Fáil spokesman on health Billy Kelleher has said Ireland has a once-in-a-generation chance to deal with the issue of abortion. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

Ireland has a once-in-a-generation chance to deal with the issue of abortion, Fianna Fáil spokesman on health Billy Kelleher has said.

Mr Kelleher said Irish society needed to be mature and address the issue of the 3,500 women who go abroad for abortions and the 1,500 who take abortion pills every year.

“It’s time to stop taking our mistakes, our shame, our tragedy, abroad,” he told RTÉ’s News at One on Monday.

He urged all TDs and Senators to carefully read last week’s report by the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment. “It’s time to deal with this now,” he added.

He said people under the age of 53 had not had a chance to vote on this issue previously.

“Ultimately we have to confront this reality. Everybody should realise this is a once-in-a-generation chance to deal with it,” said Mr Kelleher.

Minister for Health Simon Harris will brief the Cabinet on Tuesday on the Oireachtas committee’s recommendations to repeal the Eighth Amendment and allow for abortions up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy without restriction.

Mr Harris will outline the steps that must be taken to clear the path for a referendum on the issue to take place in the summer, but no formal decision will be taken at Tuesday’s meeting.

Two dates are being examined for the vote, May 18th and June 6th, and legislation to facilitate a referendum would have to be published by January 24th or February 14th, depending on the date chosen.

The Minister will also tell the Cabinet of the need to publish draft legislation at the same time as the referendum Bill to outline clearly what law would be enacted in the event of the Amendment being repealed.

Equal right to life

Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, also known as the Eighth Amendment, was inserted after a referendum in 1983. It guarantees to protect as far as practicable the equal right to life of the unborn and the mother.

It states: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

In its judgment in the X case in March 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that abortion is permissible in the State where the continuation of the pregnancy poses a real and substantial risk to the life, as opposed to the health, of the mother and where such a risk could not be averted except by means of an abortion. A substantial risk to the life of the mother included a risk of her taking her own life.