Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has revealed he will not back proposals for unrestricted abortions up to 12 weeks but that the current constitutional ban on terminations is “unrealistic”.
Speaking exclusively to the Irish Examiner, the Cork minister, who has remained silent until now on the contentious referendum, outlined his conflicted views.
It follows the Cabinet agreeing this week to hold the vote in May on repealing the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which equates the life of the unborn with the mother.
Follow-up legislation — if agreed in the Dail — would allow for unrestricted abortions up to 12 weeks in a pregnancy.
The latter is a cause of concern for several Cabinet members, including Mr Creed. He does believe, however, that the Constitution should be changed.
“I support the Government decision to hold a referendum to ask the people to delete Article 40.3.3 and to replace it with a clause in the Constitution that makes it clear that the Oireachtas may legislate to regulate the treatment of women during pregnancy which may include, where necessary, the termination of pregnancy,” said Mr Creed.
“The Constitution, due to its primacy, rigidity, and capacity for interpretation leading to unintended consequences is not, I believe, the place for matters pertaining to healthcare during pregnancy to be legally prescribed.”
Nonetheless, it is any follow-up legislation for future laws on abortion in Ireland which is dividing ministers and which a number have an issue with, including Mr Creed.
“In terms of how this, or any future Oireachtas will choose to legislate for the regulation of treatment during pregnancy is of course impossible to conclusively predict. On the question of how I shall vote on any future legislation will of course be predicated on the content of any bill that comes before the Dáil.”
He said he could not favour abortion on demand, without restrictions.
“I cannot fully endorse all of the recommendations of the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment, specifically the assertion that the termination of pregnancy should be available without restriction up to 12 weeks of gestation.
“While I don’t believe the Article 40.3.3 aspiration of holding the right of the mother and the unborn in parity as a realistic one, I do nonetheless believe the unborn child deserves protection in law in circumstances where the health of the mother is not at risk.”
It is understood he highlighted this concern during the four-hour Cabinet meeting on Monday night on the referendum.
Mr Creed told the Irish Examiner: “I hope that the debate on this important and difficult issue can take account of the critical fact that there are no correct or incorrect answers to this question, rather differing opinions, views, and beliefs”.
It is expected that Mr Creed will likely contribute to any amendments, if voters were to back repeal and if a general scheme for abortion is then tabled.
Other senior Government members have yet to fully set out their position on the proposed referendum and the scheme for abortions, including ministers Heather Humphreys, Richard Bruton, and Denis Naughten.
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