Bruton admits Cabinet divided on 12 week abortion access plan

Education Minister Richard Bruton has admitted the Cabinet is divided on plans to potentially allow unrestricted access to abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, saying ministers’ views “reflect the people at large”.

Education Minister Richard Bruton.

Mr Bruton made the comment in response to questions on whether the Cabinet has split over the key issue despite repeatedly refusing to outline his own position.

At Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting, Government ministers were formally told the Oireachtas committee has recommended repealing the Eighth Amendment and legislating for unrestricted access to abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The recommendation will be the subject of a Dáil debate next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and a Seanad debate next Wednesday before the Cabinet is asked to formally confirm its backing for the plans at the end of this month.

While the committee recommendations were made by a cross-party group, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who has yet to reveal his own position, says the 12-week limit may be “a step too far”.

Mr Bruton yesterday admitted there is also division among ministers on what to do next.

At the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition at the RDS in Dublin, Mr Bruton said: “I think this is one of the most divisive issues in Irish politics, and it has been for many years.

"A lot of people approach this with very definite views from either side of the argument, and a lot of people are in the middle ground trying to find where the balance lies.

"I think the Cabinet reflects the people at large, there are people at different points in the spectrum, and I think we are trying to collectively reach a balance that offers people an acceptable opportunity to make change, if that’s what people want to do.”

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