Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said he does not believe that maintaining the status quo on the 8th Amendment is the right thing to do but will not “at any point in time” support unrestricted access to abortion.
Speaking on Today with Sean O'Rourke he said "people have to ask themselves the question, is the status quo ok, in terms of how Ireland are dealing with this issue".
He said, however, that he does not believe that there should be no protection in law for the unborn child and that the Government is united in its approach to repealing the 8th there were differing views on the legislation that should replace it.
"The Government are unanimous in supporting a change to the constitution here, to ask people to approve the removal of what's called Article 43.3, which is this section of the constitution which in my view has had many negative consequences for many women for quite a long time now. I will be supporting taking this section out of the constitution".
Speaking on Today with Sean O'Rourke he said he also believed the State needs to protect the unborn child and so did not support unrestricted access to terminations during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The Minister went on to say he supported recommendations by the all party Oireachtas committee that terminations, post 12 weeks, should be allowed in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities and cases of rape and incest and referring to rape cases, he said that he believed that one doctor should be able to sanction an abortion after a consultation with the woman.
"I believe that because that is such an intimate and private and delicate conversation, that one doctor should in conversation with a victim be able to sanction an abortion in those circumstances.
"Where I have a difficulty is that I don't believe that there should be effectively as the committee has described unrestricted access to abortion at any point in time because I don't believe that that is consistent with the State having a legal obligation to protect an unborn child".
Mr Coveney said people were trying to polarise the debate but in his view, the majority of people in Ireland recognise the need for constitutional and legislative change and he believes he represented the middle ground that many people favour.
"It's far too early to make predictions as to how people are going to vote. I am not going to be deviated by opinion polls or by badgering by journalists."
Saying you oppose unrestricted abortion of an unborn child at 12 weeks development and then voting for repeal of the constitutional right to life of that child is an act of complete contradiction. @simoncoveney pic.twitter.com/XgNpH9JhKr— Peadar Tóibín (@Toibin1) January 31, 2018
In his interview with Sean O'Rourke Mr Coveney said his views have changed and moved over the last number of months and, as a law maker, he could not stand over sending vulnerable women in crisis pregnancy overseas.
The only way to do this, he suggested, was to change the constitution and he wanted to be part of that process. He said that he hopes a balanced legislation can be reached that he will be able to support.
"I'm not going to be leading campaigns but I'm not going to avoid the debate either."
- Digital Desk