‘Vital’ that abortion not be a crime, says Zappone

Minister’s vexed remarks come as committee reviewing amendment set to make proposals

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone: “time for the State to get out of the business of controlling reproduction”. Photograph: The Irish Times

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone: “time for the State to get out of the business of controlling reproduction”. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

Abortion should be legal, safe and freely available to anyone who needs it, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has said.

In her strongest comments to date, Ms Zappone said the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution must be removed and should not be replaced with other constitutional wording.

In a speech delivered at Dublin City University on Thursday evening, the Minister said decriminalisation of abortion was “vital”, while the 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act needed to be replaced with a law “under which abortion is safe, legal and available to all who need it”.

Her comments come at a significant juncture for the Oireachtas committee examining the Eighth Amendment , which is set to make its final decision on their recommendations within the next week.

Ms Zappone, who attended this week’s committee meeting, said it was her belief that abortion should be available on request up to 12 weeks.

Later term abortions were rare and “personal tragedies” and should be available to any woman or girl who needed one, without her having to “prove” her case.

It was “time for the State to get out of the business of controlling reproduction”, added Ms Zappone.

The lack of control women have over their bodies once they become pregnant in Ireland “denies to women full citizenship in a republic of justice”.

Ms Zappone said there were many “myths about abortion”, including that Ireland was “abortion free”, that abortions were primarily late-term and that women made the decision to have an abortion “casually”.

The Minister added: “We must do a wholesale review of our systems and practices of maternal care – the availability of foetal anomaly scanning, the freedom to make decisions about labour and birth plans, the right to refuse consent to medical treatment.

“If we are to be the republic to which we aspire, we must repeal the Eighth Amendment. We must make abortion lawfully available and we must commit ourselves fully to reproductive rights for all.”

Members of the Oireachtas committee have until midday on Friday to submit amendments to the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly.

Each individual is being asked to accept or amend each proposal made by the assembly or to prepare their own recommendation.

It is understood the committee will agree to hold the first vote on repealing the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution.

Sinn Féin is to table a proposal suggesting the committee make no determination on term limits and that such be considered in secondary legislation with the consultation of medical professions.

Official complaint

Meanwhile, the three Sinn Féin members of the committee have made an official complaint to the Ceann Comhairle regarding comments made by Independent TD Mattie McGrath.

During a hearing in October, Mr McGrath said he would not take lectures from “people who won’t tell us where Jean McConville was murdered or hidden”. Ms McConville was shot dead by the Provisional IRA.

Louise O’Reilly, Jonathan O’Brien and Senator Paul Gavin wrote to the Ceann Comhairle Seán O’Fearghaíl seeking an apology and a correction from Mr McGrath.

Mr O’Fearghaíl has written to Mr McGrath for a response but the Independent TD has yet to formally respond.

Mr McGrath said he needed to read the record before replying to the Ceann Comhairle.

However he stated he would not be apologising for his remarks.