Tánaiste Simon Coveney has voiced concerns about the welfare of the unborn over proposals to legalise abortions in all cases up to 12 weeks of gestation.
However, while speaking at a five-hour meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, Mr Coveney said that while he had concerns over the proposals of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment, he accepted that the status quo was no longer tenable.
The committee proposed legalising abortions in all circumstances up to 12 weeks and also for a straight repealing of the 1983 amendment.
According to sources, he said he had concerns about protecting the life of the unborn, as well as stress that would be caused to women.
Mr Coveney, who has not spoken publicly yet on the report’s findings, gave one of the longest contributions at the meeting and expressed concerns on both sides of the issue.
At a sometimes emotionally charged gathering of a majority of Fine Gael TDs, senators and MEPs, minister of state for the diaspora, Ciaran Cannon spoke, about how he and his wife lost a pregnancy at 33 weeks due to complications.
His fellow junior minister, Sean Kyne, also spoke passionately, saying the committee’s report left him “confused and conflicted”.
Some party members also clashed, with pro-choice TD Kate O’Connell and pro-life senator Paul Coghlan exchanging differences on the issue of abortion pills and medical services for women.
“There was a bit of sword clashing between the two over women getting abortion pills and whether they would also have the support of a doctor,” said one attendee.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told his party Fine Gael should stick to the recommendations, sources said.
It would be “too sensitive” an issue if Fine Gael did not, having gone through the Citizens’ Assembly and the Oireachtas committee, he said.
Mr Varadkar said that accepting the findings of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment is a “strong option”.
He did not give his own personal views or opinion and warned there would be downsides if a referendum along the lines of the committee’s recommendations were to fail.
Speaking after the meeting, party chairman Martin Heydon said the party would need a “very good reason to move away from the Oireachtas commttee recommendations, as it is an all-party report”.
The meeting did not hear any proposals for a “plan B” though, said sources, despite a number of Fine Gael TDs and senators saying they had concerns about the 12-week limit for abortions.
A two-day Dáil debate on the report will commence tomorrow.
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