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06.46 9 Mar 2018


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Updated: 15.55

The Dáil today began debating the proposed abortion referendum, with the vast majority of speakers calling for a repeal of the 8th amendment.

The Department of Health has also published a policy paper, outlining what new laws the Government will try to bring in if the amendment is repealed.

The policy paper is largely as expected.

It outlines access to abortion without restriction for up to 12 weeks, with terminations to be allowed after that in cases of fatal foetal abnormality - and when there is a risk to the life, health or mental health of the mother.

The Government also wants conscientious objection for medical practitioners who do not want to carry out abortions.

A cooling off period is also in the paper, where a woman will have to wait two or three days after seeking an abortion to get one.

An independent Referendum Commission has been established, and will be chaired by Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy.

The commission's key function will be to prepare, publish and distribute information about the vote, offering a general explanation of the subject matter.

The Cabinet approved a referendum bill on Thursday.

Dáil statements

Fianna Fáil's Billy Kelleher challenged those who say the 12 weeks limit goes too far.

He argued: "The gestational limit is not out of step with the norms in Europe: Belgium 12 weeks, the Czech Republic 12 weeks, Denmark 12 weeks, Germany 12 weeks, Italy 90 days, Luxembourg 12 weeks, Norway 12 weeks, Portugal 10 weeks, Slovakia 12 weeks, Sweden 18 weeks, Switzerland 12 weeks".

Elsewhere, Deputy Mattie McGrath claimed the Citizens' Assembly on the 8th amendment was a flawed process.

He described it as "a set-up, a stitch-up, a codology".

In his opening speech, Health Minister Simon Harris said Ireland needs to take a "quantum leap" forward on abortion.

He said hopes these laws would be a big change.

"They represent a quantum leap from our position on the spectrum today, where we have one of the most restrictive regimes in relation to termination - and I think are pegged somewhere in and around where Saudi Arabia is on the issue".

"If the purpose of the 8th amendment was to stop abortions in Ireland, and to stop Irish women access abortions, it did not achieve that.

"All it achieved was pain and suffering.

"In this country, whether we like to hear it, denying reality has at times become a national bad habit - denying realities does not make them go away.

"Instead it just led to hurt and to harm".

Pro Life Campaign

Image: Juliette Gash

The Pro Life Campaign, meanwhile, says Ireland would have one of the most extreme abortion regimes in the world if the Government’s abortion proposals were passed.

The group, which will be campaigning for a no vote in the expected referendum, says the rights of unborn babies will be abandoned.

They held a press conference to coincide with today's Dáil debate.

Caroline Simons from the group denied they are scare-mongering, arguing: "The proposals on abortion announced by the Government today are more extreme than England's abortion laws.

"If the 8th amendment were repealed, Ireland would go from being a country that respected and protected unborn human life, to one of the most extreme and unjust abortion regimes anywhere in the world."


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