The Minister for Health has warned that Ireland cannot continue to outsource the issue of abortion.
Simon Harris spoke strongly in favour of repealing the Eighth amendment as he opened the Dáil debate last night.
Politicians on both sides of the debate made their views known – with the majority speaking in favour of repeal.
Minister Simon Harris told the House that Irish society must finally face up to the issue:
“We need now to seek to build a society which accepts our own challenges, our own realities and addresses them honestly, maturely and openly,” he said.
“One which does not seek to deny the reality or to outsource it to another country.
“One which does not reject women at the most vulnerable moment in their lives.”
Minister Harris opened his speech by listing the number of women from each county who revealed to the UK for an abortion in 2016.
He said a total of 3,265 Irish women travelled to the UK to access an abortion – while others travelled to other countries.
He warned that “these are not faceless women” noting that they are our “friends and neighbours, sisters, cousins, mothers, aunts and wives.”
Independent Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae said the Eighth Amendment has “saved many lives” since it was introduced.
"It means that there are thousands of people who are living in this world today, who are walking the streets today thanks to that amendment - and then we're talking about repealing it," he said.
In the Seanad, Senator Paul Coghlan also spoke in favour of keeping the Amendment:
“I always believed, as I am sure you all do also, that the most basic and fundamental right is the right to life,” he said.
“Surely we don’t want to go down the road of Britain, where abortion has been legislated for, and where, to date, approximately 9 million children in the womb have been aborted.”
Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughten, 22-05-2017. Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews
Meanwhile, Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton said it is inevitable that a woman will die through the misuse of abortion pills if the current laws are not changed
Deputy Naughton considers herself pro-life, but said her attendance at the Oireachtas Committee made her realise something needs to be done.
She said the availability of abortion pills online has changed the game:
“In the absence of shutting down the internet we will never be able to stop women in crisis pregnancies form taking them,” she said.
“You cannot have a garda at every ferry and airport in Ireland searching for them.
“If we do nothing, some woman in the not too distant future will rupture her uterus and die.”
The committee has recommended a law change to allow unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks into pregnancy.
Hwever, the Taoiseach has warned that repealing the 8th Amendment might not, in and of itself, be enough to allow law makers introduce such legislation.
He said the Attorney-General has advised the Government that other parts of the Constitution may also protect the right to life of the unborn.
Leo Varadkar has said teh government is waiting for legal advice before moving forward on the issue.
Reporting by Sean Defoe, Jack Quann and Michael Staines