An opposition bill calling for sweeping changes Ireland’s abortion laws “goes miles beyond what people voted for”, the Health Minister has told Newstalk Breakfast.
Stephen Donnelly was speaking after the People Before Profit bill passed second stage in the Dáil on Wednesday.
The bill passed with the support of Government TDs including Culture Minister Catherine Martin and junior Fine Gael Minister Neale Richmond.
Several Government figures also abstained from the vote – including Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.
The bill would abolish the three-day waiting period for abortions and allow abortions to take place up to ‘viability’ – well beyond the current 12-week limit.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Minister Donnelly said the bill does not respect the vote of the people in the Eighth Amendment Referendum.
“I actually looked at the bill in great detail,” he said. “The bill goes miles beyond what people voted for in repealing the Eighth.
“It goes miles beyond that.
“I made this point to Deputy [Bríd] Smith and to others who were supporting the bill during the second stage debate.
“I said to them you are invoking the will of the people – you are invoking Repeal; you are invoking the referendum. Well, I campaigned very hard for Repeal, but your bill does not respect that vote at all because it goes way beyond that vote.
“I said you know, you are invoking the report by Marie O’Shea but your campaign goes miles beyond what Marie O’Shea said.”
Minister Donnelly moved to defend his decision to abstain from the vote, despite his opposition to the bill.
“I said as soon as the [Marie O’Shea] report was published and I referred it to the health committee, that I was going to keep my own views to myself to give the health committee space to consider the report and they can come back to me and come back to Government,” he said.
“Abstaining was simply a manifestation of that.
“I want to respect … you know, it is me who will have to bring through any new legislation and so I said right at the start I was going to wait, I was going to respect the process and give the health committee the space that they need.”
He said he does not want to be in a position where people can accuse him of “trying to influence the discussion of the health committee one way or the other”.
Barrister Marie O’Shea was tasked with examining how effective Ireland’s abortion regime has been since its introduction following the Eighth Amendment Referendum.
Her report recommends 10 law changes and 60 operational changes.
Among the proposed legal changes, is a call for the current three-day waiting period for anyone seeking an abortion to be made optional.
The review also calls for changes to the laws surrounding termination in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.
Currently, women can only access abortion outside 12 weeks gestation if two medical practitioners form a reasonable opinion the foetus will likely die before or within 28 days of birth.
It is understood the review recommends that if a doctor has formed an opinion in good faith that a pregnancy would result in a fatal foetal abnormality, they can recommend a termination.
The review also calls for an end to the criminalisation of doctors that carry out abortions outside the specific circumstances allowed for by law.
Currently, doctors face up to 14 years in prison if they provide abortion care in any other circumstance.
The review also calls for strict obligations to be placed on healthcare workers to prevent them from providing misinformation.
You can listen back to Minister Donnelly here: