The front-bench spokes-person on enterprise also said he “went easier” on Tánaiste Mary Coughlan in the Dáil “because she is a woman” in an effort to dismiss claims that he had been sexist towards her.
The conservative TD and medical doctor said he would “not be in favour of abortion” and, although he is not religious, he would “accept a lot of Catholic social thinking”.
In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled in the X case that a woman had a right to an abortion if there was “a real and substantial risk” to her life. Mr Varadkar said: “The only thing that would be a grey area is if there’s a genuine threat or risk to the life of the mother.”
But he said he wouldn’t be in favour of legalising abortions for victims of rape: “I wouldn’t be in favour of it in that case, and, you know, first of all, it isn’t the child’s fault that they’re the child of rape.”
“How would that work practically? Would someone have to prove that they’ve been raped? I think where that’s been brought in in countries it has more or less led to abortion on demand,” he said in an interview with the Sunday Independent magazine. “You can say the same thing about disabled children. You know, some people would make that argument in favour of abortion. It’s not their fault they’re disabled. I wouldn’t be in favour of it in those circumstances either.”
It’s estimated that around 5,000 women travel from Ireland to Britain for abortions every year, but Mr Varadkar said there was no double standards on the issue. “People travel overseas to do things overseas that aren’t legal in Ireland all the time. You know, are we going to stop people going to Las Vegas? Are we going to stop people going to Amsterdam? There are things that are illegal in Ireland and we don’t prevent people from travelling overseas to avail of them.”
The 31-year-old said it was “very unfair” that he was accused of sexism in the Dáil because of the way he attacked Ms Coughlan when she was Minister for Enterprise.
“If anything I went easier on her because she was a woman,” he said. “She’s accused everyone of sexism. Nobody that I know would ever say that I’m sexist. Most people would accept it was the last line of defence for Mary Coughlan.”