No canvassers ‘ridiculing mental health’: Harris

Health Minister Simon Harris has accused some no canvassers of “ridiculing mental health” as the Eighth Amendment referendum campaign enters its final days.

Mr Harris hit out at those who are trying to bring Ireland back into the “dark ages” when it comes to our view of mental health.

I thought we had come a long way in terms of de-stigmatising mental health in this country but it seems any time we want to talk about women’s bodies and crisis pregnancies, we go back to stigmatising mental health, we go back to ridiculing mental health as if it is not a real illness. It is appalling, he said.

It comes after no campaigner and senator Rónán Mullen said it was “very questionable” to use psychological risk as grounds for abortion.

With just three days of canvassing left before Friday’s vote, a number of high-profile figures came out for both sides of the debate yesterday, including former taoiseach John Bruton, who is in favour of retaining the Eighth Amendment, and author Marian Keyes who is campaigning for a yes vote to repeal the amendment, which bans abortion except in the event of a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother.

The Love Both group called on the Government to demand that Google bans websites allowing Irish people to buy abortion pills, saying this is a better option than removing the Eighth Amendment.

Claiming Mr Harris is “cynically using” the abortion pills issue to encourage a referendum yes vote, the group said if the Government is serious about the issue it could also “resource customs authorities to intercept them”.

“We are not talking about banning websites as such. We are simply talking about restricting abortion pills in Ireland,” said Love Both legal advisor Caroline Simons.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said that the only way to deal with the “real lived cases and experiences of women” is to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

“If the no campaign wishes to suggest that there is another way to deal with these cases other than voting yes and repealing the Eighth Amendment, they have had over 30 years to tell us how we deal with these hard cases, they have failed to do so,” said Ms McDonald.

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