Cabinet bids to reach abortion decision

The Cabinet next week will try to reach a collective decision on whether or not abortion should be allowed unrestricted up to 12 weeks for pregnancies, writes Juno McEnroe.

While a number of ministers have yet to declare their position on the recommendations to liberalise the abortion laws, some Cabinet members believe a majority will support changes.

Next Tuesday’s meeting is expected to pick up the discussion and debate among ministers on the abortion recommendations. There is a strong expectation that, in the days following the meeting, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will take a position on the report’s recommendations. But he may not make it know publicly for a week or two, government sources say.

At least seven Cabinet members have publicly said they support repeal of the Eighth Amendment. Some have said they favour allowing unrestricted abortions in line with committee recommendations — up to 12 weeks.

A Cabinet source said: “It’s [the meeting] about trying to get a collective decision. The majority [of ministers] will support the committee.”

However, Mr Varadkar has said there are concerns about the extent of the Oireachtas committee recommendations which went further than many people and politicians expected.

Three options were laid out to the Cabinet last week over its response to the report recommendations and plans for a referendum later this year. They included “doing nothing”, agreeing to the recommendations, or offer their own solution on addressing concerns about the Eighth Amendment.

Many ministers and TDs are nervous about publicly expressing an opinion, or stating, their position on the issues. It is unclear if any further options have been considered by the Department of Health or the Taoiseach, beyond the recommendations made by the Oireachtas committee.

A Government spokeswoman said it was “unlikely” other options would be considered and did not dismiss a suggestion that the 12-week rule was the “only show in town”.

Other parties are also expected to have their own meetings and discussion on the report and referendum, when the Dáil resumes next week, including Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, and Labour.

This story originally appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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