Minister of Health to take part in live debate tonight as campaigning continues

Health Minister Simon Harris will take part in a live TV debate on the abortion referendum tonight.

RTÉ's Prime Time - The Referendum Debate is a specially extended live programme which will be broadcast at 9.35pm on RTÉ One.

Miriam O'Callaghan and David McCullagh will host RTÉ's final television referendum debate between Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD and Prof. Mary Higgins, Consultant Obstetrician (Together for Yes) for the 'Yes' side and Cora Sherlock, Solicitor (Love Both) and Peadar Tóibín TD, Sinn Fein, for the 'No' side.

The programme will also feature contributions from the live studio audience of 90 people.

Meanwhile, both sides continue on the campaign trail today in a bid to win over voters with the so called 'hard case' issues continuing to feature prominently.

On the issue of rape cases, Cora Sherlock from the Pro Life Campaign said the experience of the woman at the centre of the C case illustrates why the 8th amendment should be retained.

In 1997, the then 13 year old rape victim was allowed to travel to the UK for an abortion following a high profile legal case.

But in a recent interview the now mother of two said she regretted the termination and was angry that it was being used to justify the repeal of the 8th amendment.

In a separate news conference the doctor who led the inquiry into Savita Halappanavar's death has said the hands of doctors are being tied by the 8th Amendment.

Ms Halappanavar, a 31 year old Indian woman who was 17 weeks pregnant, died at University Hospital Galway from sepsis, while suffering a miscarriage.

An investigation into her death found the 8th amendment played a role after her request for an abortion was denied.

At today's event Prof. Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, suggested it was the constitutional ban on abortion which prevented Savita from being treated properly.

His claims have been dismissed by the No side, however, who suggest Ms Halappanavar's case is being misrepresented.

Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Dr Trevor Hayes, who is part of the Doctors for Life organisation that supports retaining the Eighth Amendment, told Morning Ireland there were missed opportunities to treat Ms Halappanavar because the recognition of sepsis came too late.

Mr Hayes said that he believed the amendment was not a cause in Ms Halappanavar's death and that is was something worth protecting.

The law, he said, allowed him to recognise when there is risk to the mother and he does not have to "play medical roulette" or "worry about the Eighth Amendment" when practising obstetrics.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Simon Harris has urged people to get out and vote, saying this referendum won't be decided by the people who stay at home.


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