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Tánaiste changes mind on amendment

Tánaiste Simon Coveney. PHOTO BY ROLLING NEWS . IE

By Anthony Neeson

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has changed his position on the Eighth Amendment referendum and is to back abortion up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

Writing in the Irish Independent the Minister for Foreign Affairs said he had held a series of meetings with clinicians in recent weeks.

The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution recognizes the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn.

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“Removing the equal right to life of the unborn from our Constitution is not something I easily or immediately supported,” the Tánaiste wrote in Monday’s paper.

“I say this as a husband and father of three beautiful young girls. I have spent many months discussing and consulting widely on what system needs to replace the Eighth Amendment.

“It worries me that I have heard people who raise legitimate questions about the right to life of an unborn child being dismissed as dinosaurs or anti-women.

“This referendum campaign needs fewer media cheerleaders or scaremongers and more facts and reassurance. It is easy to see why many people won’t engage in the debate at all, but wait and have their say privately in the ballot box.

“That is why I believe what the Government is going to do tomorrow at Cabinet is crucial to show people the limits and scope of the law we propose to pass if they vote ‘yes’ to repeal.”

He said in February he expressed doubts about unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks.

“In recent weeks the Health Minister and senior clinicians have worked with me on the safeguards and structures to the proposed law that I hope will enable those unsure to vote ‘yes’. The legislation Minister Harris will bring to Cabinet tomorrow will not give unrestricted access to abortion at any point in pregnancy.

“We need a law based in reality that recognizes that thousands of Irish women have abortions every year, at home with drugs purchased online or abroad without support. The place to start is a new comprehensive package to address sexual education and free access to contraception to reduce the number of crisis pregnancies, estimated at 13 per cent of all pregnancies, and better supports for those who did not plan to have a baby.”

He said that if people vote ‘yes’ and allow government to legislate “we will get that balance right and protect women in the appropriate way”.