Children's Minister calls for abortion on request up to 12 weeks

Katherine Zappone says the 8th Amendment should be repealed and not replaced

Children's Minister calls for abortion on request up to 12 weeks

File photo | The Minister for Children & Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone on the Plinth, Leinster House, 30-05-2017. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

Updated 20:45

The Minister for Children has called for abortion without restriction up to the 12th week of pregnancy.

In a speech this evening, Katherine Zappone said women should not have to justify their decision to anyone.

She said the 8th Amendment should be repealed - and not replaced with any other text in the constitution.

She said Irish abortion laws should be designed to enable women to make free decisions about their reproductive lives and empower medics to “help women rather than making them into guardians of the state’s interest in the continuation of pregnancy."

State control

“It is time for the state to get out of the business of controlling reproduction,” she said.

“It is time for us to re-vision reproductive rights; to commit to a system of reproductive justice in which women who wish to remain pregnant are supported, and women who do not can exercise their choice safely and with the aid rather than the condemnation of our Republic.

“It is time for pregnancy in Ireland to be liberating, safe, and above all voluntary.”

Choice

While Minister Zappone has long been in favour of repeal, her speech at DCU this evening saw her go into far greater detail.

She said she wants to decriminalise abortion adding that a termination should be available on request up to the 12th week of the pregnancy.

“During that time, a woman should not have to justify herself to anyone, and should simply be able to access abortion pills or surgical abortion on the basis of her decision alone,” she said.

Personal tragedies

She went on to say that while she sees some argument in limiting abortion after the 12th week; it should remain available outside of extreme cases - such as where there is a risk to life, a fatal foetal abnormality or where the pregnancy is the result of rape.

The Minister argued that those terms would help almost none of the women in Ireland who seek abortions.

“The reality is that in later pregnancy, abortion is almost always the product of terrible circumstances: a devastating foetal diagnosis, a risk to the woman’s life, an illness so serious that we cannot wait," she said. 

“Late term abortions are not political footballs to be kicked around in debates; they are personal tragedies deserving of our compassion and support. 

“That is what a politics of love requires of us and our new law should recognise this and ensure that women who need late term abortions are not forced to run the gamut of endless certifications and qualifications to prove that they are sick enough, or that their foetus is sick enough, to be allowed to have a freely chosen abortion.

Coercion

She said it is time to repeal the 8th Amendment and to reclaim women's bodies from the state.

“Women know themselves,” she said. “We know what we can bear; we know what we cannot.” 

“We know the impact of decades of reproductive coercion and of the ways in which stereotypes, myths and assumptions about womanhood, motherhood, reproduction and pregnancy have underpinned that coercion. 

“And we know that we can bear no more.

“If we are to be the republic to which we aspire, we must repeal the 8th Amendment, we must make abortion lawfully available, and we must commit ourselves fully to reproductive rights for all.”

The Oireachtas Committee on the Eight Amendment is nearing the end of its deliberations and is due to publish its recommendations by the end of the year.

A referendum on the Eight Amendment is expected to be held sometime next summer – with a number of members calling for it to be held in May.