Expert: 12-week clause could be changed in event of medical breakthroughs

Peter Boylan

The Government’s proposed 12-week access abortion law that it wants to introduce if the Eighth Amendment is removed could be changed to take account of new medical breakthroughs in years to come, an expert has said.

The chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (IOG), Peter Boylan, made the claim at a Fine Gael pro-choice launch on the medical harm caused by the Eighth Amendment.

Speaking to reporters as two rural ministers known to have concerns about potential law changes said they are “coming around” to the idea, Dr Boylan said that while the 12-week proposal remains high-profile, it may be changed in the future.

“Viability has moved back now from 28 weeks when I was training to 23-24 weeks, so there’s no saying it won’t go further, and if we have legislation then we can reduce the time limit on which an abortion will be legal,” said Dr Boylan.

He added that while some members of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists were in favour of the Eighth Amendment “in good faith” when it was introduced in 1983, “many looking back now will say it was a mistake”.

Dr Boylan said the IOG now supports repealing the amendment, and that despite some internal criticism this will be underlined at an emergency meeting today.

At the same event, Health Minister Simon Harris and Culture Minister Josepha Madigan — who is Fine Gael’s campaign co-ordinator — denied the party is not putting up campaign posters due to fears that this would split the party.

“It’s simply a decision we’ve made,” Ms Madigan said.

Meanwhile, two rural ministers known to have concerns about potential abortion law changes have said they are open to the idea.

“I have not decided yet but I am coming around to the very strong case,” junior rural affairs minister Sean Kyne said at a Project Ireland 2040 event at NUI Galway. 

Communications Minister Denis Naughten said he called for a referendum in 2013, but warned the public not to listen to politicians when deciding.

Former Labour TD and communications minister Pat Rabbitte told Newstalk radio that, despite concerns over graphic imagry being used in the campaign, limiting the images would lead to “censorship” claims.

Pro-life group LoveBoth criticised Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday for supporting the Together For Yes crowdfunding drive on Twitter, a claim that was dismissed by pro-choice TDs.

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