Health Minister launches impassioned call for repeal of the Eighth Amendment

The Supreme Court has paved the way for an abortion referendum

The Minister for Health has launched an impassioned argument calling for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

Simon Harris was speaking after the Supreme Court ruled that the only right afforded to the unborn under the Constitution is the right to life.

The unanimous decision from the seven judge court overturns a High Court ruling handed down last year. 

It means the Government can proceed with trying to call a referendum on the 8th amendment.

The Cabinet will meet Thursday morning to approve a the wording of a bill to hold the referendum - which will outline the exact question people will be asked to vote on.

This afternoon, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed the Government will try to get a referendum bill into the Dáil tomorrow or Friday.

Appeal

Minister Harris said the judgement provided clarity for legislators - noting that when you ask people to vote on something, they must be absolutely clear what the "Constitutional and legal" consequences of their vote might be.

He said he does not believe the Constitution of Ireland is the appropriate place to "regulate access to healthcare for women" - and launched an impassioned argument for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment:

"If you believe there needs to be change in this area in this country - you need to repeal the Eighth Amendment," he said.

"If you believe that it is wrong that a woman is brutally raped and has to carry her child to full term in this country - you have to repeal the Eight Amendment.

"If you believe it is wrong that a woman who has a fatal foetal abnormality in her pregnancy finds herself having to travel to Britain and bring back her baby's remains in the boot of her car - you have to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

"If you believe it is wrong that women from every county in this country, on a daily basis and or a weekly basis, travel abroad to access termination - you have to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

"And if you believe it is wrong that women - our sisters, our daughters, our mothers, our wives, our neighbours, our work colleagues - access abortion pills without any medical supervision in the privacy and loneliness of their bedroom or their home - if you believe that is wrong you have to repeal the Eighth Amendment."

He said doctors should not be asked to "dust down Bunreacht na hÉireann" before making medical decisions about women's healthcare.

"The Constitution is not the place to deal with this issue - and that is why we are proposing a referendum," he said.

Referendum

The Supreme Court ruling has been widely welcomed across the political divide with TDs welcoming the clarity it provides and calling for the referendum to be held as promised.

Linda Kavanagh, spokesperson for the Abortion Rights Campaign, said: "The Supreme Court ruling today means that nothing now stands in the way of this referendum as promised by the Government."

And Ailbhe Smyth, convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, added: "It is up to Government to officially set a date for the referendum on the 8th amendment and we look forward to having confirmation on that date in the very near future."

Rights

The Save the Eight campaign however, said the ruling "exposes the frightening reality of the Government's proposals on abortion."

Spokesperson Niamh Uí Bhrian said repealing the Eighth would completely remove all constitutional rights afforded to the unborn.

She said repealing the Eighth Amendment would "give carte blanche to future governments to extend abortion on demand later in pregnancy without any approval from the public."

The Pro-Life Campaign said the ruling highlighted the importance of keeping "this life-saving provision" in the Constitution.