The Eighth Amendment

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Sir, – Surely the Cabinet’s dilemma about whether the people are ready to accept the recommendations of the Oireachtas committee would be resolved if it showed leadership and explained to voters the reasons for, and merits of, those recommendations (“Taoiseach cautious on limit of 12 weeks for abortion”, News, January 11th).

The outcomes of both the Citizens’ Assembly and the Oireachtas Committee demonstrated that when members fully understood the impacts of the Eighth Amendment they also recognised how urgently legal change was needed.

It is time for the Taoiseach to take his courage in his hands and explore what steps can be taken to educate the people, as the members of those bodies were educated.

This issue cannot be settled by half-measures and will rightly continue to haunt Irish politics if the Government fails now.

The Government has an opportunity to address it comprehensively and forever. Let it not throw it away. – Yours, etc,

Dr SANDRA McAVOY,

Cork.

Sir, – In an interview with the New York Times last September, the Taoiseach said, “I don’t share the view that the baby in the womb . . . should have no rights at all”.

In particular he said that he could not agree that “a child in the womb with a beating heart” should have no rights.

As a medical doctor, Mr Varadkar will be aware that a baby’s heart begins to beat in the fifth week of pregnancy and that this can be routinely observed by an ultrasound scan at seven weeks.

The Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment has proposed that abortion should be legal up to the 12th week of pregnancy without any restrictions of any kind. In other words, a baby’s heart might have been beating for almost two months, and his or her parents will be able to see this heartbeat on a scan for six weeks, but that baby will have absolutely no rights of any kind under Irish law. An intervention to stop their heartbeat and end their life, for any reason whatsoever, will be entirely legal.

This is the reprehensible proposal which the Oireachtas committee tells us represents the “middle ground”.

In his career to date, Leo Varadkar has shown an admirable willingness to stand by strength of his own convictions, for example, when he faced the wrath of his colleagues in 2014 by defending the Garda whistleblowers.

Surely he must do so again on this occasion, standing by the his own convictions as outlined in his interview with the New York Times, and oppose the recommendations of the Oireachtas committee which he clearly feels are deeply wrong. – Yours, etc,

THOMAS RYAN, BL

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – I note the number of politicians who either believe that their position on abortion should be private or will offer no position on abortion.

Perhaps this is the clearest answer as to why abortion should be a healthcare matter and not a political one. – Yours, etc,

DAVID GORMAN,

Dublin 11.

Sir, – I echo Archbishop Eamon Martin’s call for people of faith to contact their representatives.

People who have faith in a woman’s right and ability to choose whether or not to have an abortion, people who have faith in women’s inalienable right to bodily autonomy, and people who have faith that women need access to healthcare not airfares, must also speak out. Politicians must be left in no doubt that access to abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy is not “a step too far”, rather the bare minimum that mná na hÉireann will accept. – Yours, etc,

CIARA BEADES,

Dublin 3.

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