Abortion debate: 'Eighth Amendment saved many lives, and we are talking about repealing it' - Healy Rae

Abortion debate: 'Eighth Amendment saved many lives, and we are talking about repealing it' - Healy Rae

Update 9.45pm:  TDs and Senators have been setting out their arguments for and against abortion.

Legislators will continue the debate on the Oireachtas committee recommendations tomorrow evening.

Health Minister Simon Harris said this was a potentially historic moment and called for a calm and measured debate.

Health Minister Simon Harris said this was a potentially historic moment and called for a calm and measured debate.
Health Minister Simon Harris said this was a potentially historic moment and called for a calm and measured debate.

Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae was one of the TDs to speak against repealing Article 40.3.3.

He said: "The Eighth Amendment is an excellent lesson on how we can debate things today.

"The lesson is...we don't debate things at all.

"Too many people in this house and in the media simply attack what they don't like.

"Everybody in politics and the media knows that the pro-life side has been largely shut out from the process and that has been the fact."

He continued: "People voted for the Eighth Amendment in huge numbers, it saved many lives - it could be 100,000 lives, it could be 50,000, it could be 5,000.

"It means that there are thousands of people, who are living in this world today, walking the streets today, thanks to that amendment, and we are talking about repealing it."

Simon Harris says proposals will be brought in the coming weeks for a referendum on the issue in late May or early June.

And Minister Harris has outlined his view that women should have the right to choose.

He said: "I hope, I really do, that as a country, we can no longer tolerate a law which denies care and understanding to women who are our friends, our sisters, our mothers, our daughters, our wives."

Fianna Fáil's Health Spokesperson Billy Kelleher says the issue of abortion can only be dealt with by repealing the Eighth.

He said: "170,000 women plus have left this state for a termination.

"We have been exporting our problem for a very long time and it is our duty I believe to address this particular issue."

Fianna Fáil's Health Spokesperson Billy Kelleher.
Fianna Fáil's Health Spokesperson Billy Kelleher.

Meanwhile Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin is understood to have told his parliamentary party a referendum is needed on the Eighth.

He did not express a personal view on the matter but said it should be out to the people.

Around 20 TDs and Senators spoke on the issue at their parliamentary party meeting earlier.

Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin is understood to have told his parliamentary party a referendum is needed on the Eighth.
Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin is understood to have told his parliamentary party a referendum is needed on the Eighth.

Update 5.40pm: Health Minister Simon Harris has said Ireland is now coming face-to-face with its past as it prepares for debate and campaigning around the upcoming abortion referendum, writes Juno McEnroe.

Opening a Dáil debate this evening on recommended changes the abortion laws, he pledged voters will get details of what will happen if abortion restrictions are removed from the Constitution.

"I am working with my Chief Medical Officer and officials, and the Attorney General to consider how best to translate these recommendations into legislation should that be the wish of the Irish people. It is my intention that in the event of a referendum as much information as possible would be available to people.”

But the Fine Gael minister went through the numbers or women who had travelled abroad for terminations fro different counties, the complex and personal cases for women but also the more recent use of abortion pills.

He went through the numbers from individual counties who sought terminations abroad, adding:

“ It is estimated that at least 170,000 Irish women have travelled to other countries for abortions since 1980.     

“These are not faceless women.  They are our friends and neighbours, sisters, cousins, mothers, aunts, wives.  Each woman is dealing with her own personal situation and making what is a deeply difficult decision.”

He praised the work of the Oireachtas Committee which has recommended repealing the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution and allowing for unrestricted abortions for pregnancies up to 12 weeks. 

Several senior members of government have yet to give their opinion on the recommendations but a referendum is now expected to go ahead in either May or June on the contentious issue.

Minister Harris called for respectful debate in the weeks and months ahead:

“Ultimately, there is always a deeply personal, private story behind each individual case which I believe is a matter for a woman and her doctor.  I believe the Irish people trust women and they trust doctors to make these difficult decisions.”

The Dail and country was now coming face-to-face with its past, he also said, adding:

"A history that continues to unfold and continues to hold up a mirror in which we sometimes don’t like what we see. 

"Whether it is the damp cold of the Magdalene Laundries creeping into our bones, or the sundered silence of Mother & Baby Homes being broken, or the glimpses of  what was an all-too-acceptable culture exposed by the Kerry Babies case – all of these things are connected.  

"Connected by the way we as a country have treated women, particularly pregnant women."

The Dail debate will continue this evening as well as this evening with TDs from all parties debating the issue.

Abortion debate: 'Eighth Amendment saved many lives, and we are talking about repealing it' - Healy Rae

4pm: The debate comes as opposition TD Ruth Coppinger said this afternoon she may propose the wording of an abortion referendum in the Dáil next week if the Government does not.

Ms Coppinger says the Government need to get a move on and publish the wording of a referendum on the 8th Amendment.

The Government is currently getting legal advice on the proposals from the Oireachtas committee before calling a vote.

Coppinger has said the government must also need stick to their word and reveal the laws that would come in if the 8th Amendment is repealed.

Opposition TD Ruth Coppinger
Opposition TD Ruth Coppinger

She said: "I have no confidence, that this Dáil with its current make up, could actually be trusted to enact that legislation unless it gets a public endorsement in this referendum.

I think people should know what they are voting for and I am actually confident that they will accept."

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