Opposition vows to help pass abortion law

Opposition leaders have vowed to help the Government pass legislation on abortion as quickly as possible.

Health Minister Simon Harris, who will draft the wording of the bill, described the outcome of the referendum to repeal the Eighth as a reflection of the “innately decent and compassionate” country we live in.

“Under the Eighth Amendment women in crisis pregnancy have been told to take a plane or take the boat, today we tell them take our hand,” Mr Harris said.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Sinn Féin president Mary-Lou McDonald and Labour’s Brendan Howlin were among the politicians who came out to support Mr Harris to press ahead with the legislation now needed.

Mr Harris is to bring a memo to Cabinet tomorrow to seek permission to draw up the bill. He hopes drafting can take place over the summer months with a view to trying to introduce legislation in the Oireachtas in the autumn session.

“The people of Ireland have clearly thought about this issue at great lengths and for a significant period of time and now they have answered that question and they have answered it in a resounding manner.

“Across the political spectrum, across the societal spectrum people have voted to say yes and I believe that gives me a mandate now to introduce the legislation, which I published in advance of this referendum.”

Prior to the vote, Government put forward proposals on unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks, after that terminations will be allowed in certain circumstances, such as where the health of the mother is at serious risk. The only instance where abortions can be carried out after 24 weeks will be where there is a diagnosis of a fatal fetal abnormality.

Mr Harris said: “It’s not government legislation, it’s legislation that a huge amount of people, including my colleague Kate O’Connell put a huge amount of work into on a cross-party basis.

“It’s one that has had legal and medical input and we have had a campaign where civil society and Together4- Yes have been to the fore.”

Even before the official result had been announced on Saturday evening, opposition TDs rowed in behind the Government to commit to implement the legislation.

Mr Howlin, who voted against the introduction of the Eighth Amendment as a senator in 1983, said he didn’t believe that he would see such a “resounding change” in this lifetime.

“Everybody voted with a very clear view of what was going to be enacted, we now have an obligation as speedily as we can to make sure it is enacted.”

While Mr Martin, who had initially grappled with the 12 weeks before coming out in full support of it, said the outcome of the referendum was “the right decision by the Irish people”. He said had spoken to a number of pro-life Fianna Fáil TDs, including deputy leader Dara Calleary who will not “stand in the way of the democratic will of the people”.

Speaking after the vote Ms McDonald said she hopes the result will be another step in building a better Ireland for women, a sign that draft legislation must now be brought forward as “a matter of urgency”.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan also said his party looked forward to supporting the progression of the Government’s draft legislation on the regulation of terminations in the Dáil.

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