Cabinet to discuss abortion question and laws next week

The Cabinet will next week discuss the thrust of the abortion referendum question and what specific legislation could follow any yes vote.

A meeting of ministers on Monday will consider legal advice on the referendum and the approach Health Minister Simon Harris is taking to formulating the question and follow-up laws.

While no specific wording will be agreed on the day, government sources confirmed the type of question or thrust of the referendum on abortion will be known after the meeting.

Mr Harris will formally ask the Cabinet for permission to hold the referendum, which the Government hopes will go ahead in either late May or early June.

He will outline his approach on the expected vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment, which includes whether it is a simple straight repeal of part of the Constitution or whether it also includes an enabling provision around legislation for terminations.

Mr Harris will also outline his approach around legislation that might follow on abortions if the Eighth Amendment was repealed. An Oireachtas committee has recommended abortion should be allowed without restriction for pregnancies up to 12 weeks.

Meanwhile, a group of pro-life Fianna Fáil TDs have announced that they want a “fair share” for their views on TV and other media during any campaign on the referendum.

A meeting, organised by Carlow-Kilkenny TD Bobby Aylward, was attended by at least eight “like-minded” TDs and senators.

Mr Aylward said he was “inundated” with calls from grassroots members after party leader Micheál Martin told the Dáil last week he was in favour of repeal.

He also claimed a number of frontbench Fianna Fáil figures had tried to get him to cancel the meeting in case it was viewed as a “split” of the party.

“There was a general discussion on the Eighth Amendment, our position is pro-life,” he said. “A lot feel we are not getting our view put across [in the media]. We want our fair share.”

Among those who attended last night’s break-away group meeting included finance committee chairman John McGuinness, Waterford TD Mary Butler, Cork TD Kevin O’Keeffe, Dublin TD John Curran, and Sligo TD Eamon Scanlon.

Mr Aylward said some TDs and senators were “disappointed” in how Mr Martin held back on making his views known to party colleagues before telling the Dáil last week.

Mr Martin last night told RTE’s Prime Time he was conscious the majority of the party members were against repeal. However, the issue was “not black and white”, he stressed.

He maintained that a vote for repeal would not open “the floodgates” for abortions and the vast majority of pregnancies would be brought to full term in Ireland.

Elsewhere, Green party leader Eamon Ryan told the Dáil that he favoured liberalising the abortion laws.

Mr Ryan said: “We agree with the committee that any decision regarding the termination within the first trimester of a pregnancy should be a decision for each woman, supported by her doctor. Those decisions are already being made. We can’t ignore that. It is wrong that those decisions have to be made in secret, with no supports available from the State.”

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