Taoiseach rejects claim 'hard cases' can be dealt with without full repeal of 8th

Update 6.45pm: An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the current and former Attorneys General advised that it would not be possible to leave the 8th Amendment in place while legislating for terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities and pregnancies that resulted from rape or incest.

In an interview this evening with Today's FM Last Word with Matt Cooper, the Taoiseach said: "We can't (do that). What the 8th Amendment says is that the right to life of the unborn, even one or two days after conception, is equal to that of (the pregnant woman), and because of that, any ending of the foetal life is a form of homicide.

"The advice from the Attorney General was that because the 8th Amendment puts the right to life of the unborn on the same level as the right to life of the pregnant woman, the penalty (for terminating the pregnancy) had to be the same as if you were killing (the pregnant woman)."

He added it was not possible to say there would never be a prosecution based on the 8th Amendment, as it is currently worded. Penalties are up to 14 years in jail.

Earlier:

The Government could have dealt with the so called 'hard cases' in the abortion debate without raising the spectre of abortion on demand, according to Sinn Féin's Peadar Toibin.

Mr Toibin said the government has got their proposals for abortion all wrong and says the repeal of the 8th Amendment would needlessly remove all rights for the unborn from the constitution.

Mr Toibin urged the electorate not to lose sight of the fact that the hard cases of rape and fatal foetal abnormality make up a very small amount of the total number of abortions being carried out today.

The Sinn Fein TD said there should have been a different approach to deal with these hard cases.

"If Simon Harris was real about trying to develop legislation around those individuals with life limiting conditions and those who suffered rape then he could easily have brought about a constitutional amendment, and still could, which would allow for that to happen without leading for situation where 98% of those children being aborted will be healthy babies.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Simon Harris has said it is "frightening" that unless citizens vote to liberalise the country's strict abortion laws, women will continue to face the threat of jail for terminating a pregnancy.

Mr Harris said that, as long as an amendment which gives equal right to life of the woman and the unborn remains in the Constitution, a penalty was legally required.

"That's quite frightening," he said. "People who are going to go out to vote on Friday need to know that."

He added: "I don't give instructions to doctors to call the police... but it shouldn't take away from the reality."

Mr Harris went on to criticise the Catholic Church for their views on social issues.

He said the church has been wrong during a number of previous campaigns including divorce and the introduction of contraception and hit out at sermons from the pulpit at events where there's children present

"The Church are entitled to their views, absolutely... but they should also expect to be scrutinsed on their record in terms of the views they have had on other issues."

In a statement released today, however, Bishop Ray Browne of Kerry said he had been heartened by the positive response to his own Pastoral Message and thanked all those who were "debating and discussing the issue gently, respectfully and sensitively".

He went on: "If the Referendum is passed the government’s proposed legislation is extreme. I believe it will introduce a system similar to Britain where many claim that 90% of babies aborted are healthy babies.

"I am voting ‘NO’ next Friday. I encourage, you to do the same. Please pray that the people of our country will choose to vote ‘NO’, thus honouring and defending the life of every unborn child.

"I conclude with the words of Pope Francis: 'No alleged right to one’s own body can justify a decision to terminate the life of an innocent child growing in the mother’s womb.'"

- Digital Desk & Press Association


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