Simon Coveney: Abortion law hard to know by year end

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has cast doubt that new abortion legislation could be passed this year should the people vote yes on Friday, as the Taoiseach has claimed.

Leo Varadkar had said it would be his intention to see legislation, including provision for virtually unrestricted abortions up to the 12th week of pregnancy, cleared through the Oireachtas by the end of the year, but Mr Coveney has signalled that this is unlikely.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Mr Coveney twice stressed that it is “hard to know” if his Government will get the legislation passed.

Both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, along with a significant number of Cabinet ministers and Fine Gael TDs and senators, canvassed in Tullamore yesterday in a final push for the yes side.

Mr Varadkar said that while the polls are “encouraging”, he is “not taking anything for granted” and urged people to get out to vote on Friday.

“I remember the divorce referendum,” he said. “It came down to as little as one vote in every ballot box and everything now is going to be about turnout.”

Increasing numbers of people in Government and in Fianna Fáil have said this Dáil will never get to deal with the legislation, as a general election this year is now more likely.

“It is hard to know,” said Mr Coveney. :Work will begin on it by the end of the year.

“Whether or not it can get finalised by then, it is hard to know. We’ll need to get the co-operation from other parties, but I think we will get this. This is not a party political issue.”

The Tánaiste has sought to assure undecided voters who are uncomfortable with the 12-weeks proposal.

“I will be one of the voices ensuring that the legislation that follows is not some kind of dramatically liberal regime, quite the opposite in fact, but also recognises the need for compassion,” he said.

Mr Coveney said he hoped the Dáil does not fall before legislation can be passed.

“I hope we can follow through on the commitments. The Protection of Life Act is law and will remain as law until the law is changed,” he said.

Meanwhile, Savita Halappanavar’s parents came out to publicly support a yes vote, which was later welcomed by the Taoiseach.

“I have always been reluctant to talk about her too much in this campaign because she is a private individual and still has a grieving family, but I think the fact that Savita’s parents have said what they have said is very significant, said Mr Varadkar.

“If she had been given the termination when she asked for it, she would be alive today, probably gone on to be a mother herself, and perhaps would be out today campaigning with us.”

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