Few TDs offer alternative to 12th-week proposal

Just five of the 54 TDs opposing unrestricted access to abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy, regardless of future changes, have an alternative to the potential new law if the referendum is passed.

A poll of all 158 TDs by the Irish Examiner in recent days shows that just a handful of those opposed to the potential new law are willing to put forward another option in the event that the constitution is changed.

According to a detailed survey published in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, 57 TDs are currently in favour of the potential 12-week rule, 26 are undeclared, and 75 currently oppose it — including two Sinn Féin members saying they will remain opposed even if the party, as predicted, changes its policy to support the 12-week rule.

However, when each TD opposed to the potential rule was asked for an alternative proposal should the referendum pass, just five were willing to put forward another option.

The five TDs with alternatives included Independent Michael Collins, Fianna Fáil TDs Fiona O’Loughlin and Eugene Murphy, Fine Gael TD and junior minister Pat Breen, and Tánaiste Simon Coveney, who last week outlined his alternative on RTE Radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme.

Mr Collins told the Irish Examiner the “alternative is not to try to bring out a wording which, in my view, is trying to bring abortion in the back door”.

Ms O’Loughlin said she supports only restricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks for fatal foetal abnormalities, rape and incest, while Mr Murphy said he wants to see “better help with crisis pregnancies”.

Mr Coveney previously said the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment’s recommendations for after the 12th week should apply for pre-12 weeks as well except in cases of rape and incest, where a woman should simply inform their GP of what happened, a view Mr Breen said has “merit”.

However, the Oireachtas committee was told by experts this is not possible as it may mean someone accused of rape could not receive a fair trial.

Meanwhile, the Irish Examiner understands a senior member of the HSE’s child, adolescent, and mental health services has written to a number of TDs, using formal HSE notepaper, saying legalising abortion will “bring with it a multitude of harmful effects on all concerned”.

Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly has formally complained to HSE director general Tony O’Brien about the use of official HSE notepaper to make the claim, and will raise the matter at an Oireachtas health committee meeting with him today.

“The content of that letter and the view expressed by people who should be impartial is not acceptable,” she told the Irish Examiner.

Separately, Health Minister Simon Harris has said GPs will be allowed to conscientiously object to performing abortions if a new GP-led service is introduced.

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