Minister joins calls for public forum on law change after teen rape case

A Cabinet minister has weighed in behind calls for a public forum to debate changes to abortion legislation following the case of a raped teenager who was denied a termination.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan also said that he was concerned about the teenager’s baby, who was born by caesarean section after 25 weeks and would have difficulty living independently.

His comments come after calls by Labour and Independent TDs for the Constitutional Convention to be recalled to discuss whether there should be a referendum on lifting the ban on abortions.

Several also jointly signed a statement yesterday expressing their outrage at how the teenager — whom they called Migrant X — had been treated by the State.

Mr Flanagan, a Fine Gael minister, said he was deeply disturbed about the suicidal immigrant teenager who was made pregnant through rape but not allowed travel abroad for a procedure. There was some suggestion now that legislation introduced last year for terminations in limited circumstances was “not working”, he said.

However, there was “no appetite” for a referendum, he added.

Speaking to RTÉ radio, he said the facts about the teenager’s case would be known from a HSE internal inquiry and shared at Cabinet in a few weeks.

It needed to be established if the appropriate level of care had been provided to the young woman, he added.

The Laois-Offaly TD noted calls for a Citizens Assembly to discuss the case.

The option to reconvene the Constitutional Convention should be considered, he added.

“We’ve had three referendums,” said Mr Flanagan. “We’ve had over 30 years of intense and heated debate on this issue. It’s important it’s included among a menu of issues.”

Asked if a referendum should be held on abortion, he replied: “It’s important that there is a mandate for this and I’m not sure that there is a mandate for another referendum before the next general election.”

He said the issue of terminations for victims of rape and cases of foetal abnormalities should also be examined.

His comments come after senior Government figures in recent days ruled out any vote on abortion in the lifetime of this Government.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has also said that the full facts of the teenager’s case are not known.

Mr Varadkar has said that he wants to see the HSE inquiry before engaging in any detailed way.

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