Minister calls for abortion to be more widely available
Children's Minister Katherine Zappone believes that only offering abortions in cases of incest, rape and fatal foetal abnormality would "do nothing at all for most women in Ireland".
The minister wants the forthcoming citizens' assembly to look at widening the reasons for permitting an abortion beyond the three that are currently the subject of widespread public discourse.
Writing in today's Irish Independent, Ms Zappone says the Eighth Amendment must be repealed, but that a referendum now "with an unclear popular consensus" would be unwise.
The Independent TD recently faced criticism after voting against Mick Wallace's bill that would have allowed for terminations in the cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.
Despite a free vote on the issue, Ms Zappone stuck with the Fine Gael view that a citizens' assembly is the way forward.
"I understand and share the impatience of many for reform, and I know that some fear the citizens' assembly is nothing more than a delaying tactic," she said.
Before the Dáil recess, the Cabinet agreed to appoint Ms Justice Laffoy, a serving Supreme Court judge, to chair the assembly.
Ms Zappone argues that without a detailed debate on what should replace the Eighth Amendment, which gives equal rights to a mother and her unborn child, there may be no change to the status quo.
"Winning a referendum requires more than a good argument. It requires a good knowledge base, factual counter- points to misinformation, and a large and organised canvassing effort across the entire country with clear and broad political support," she writes.
"Right now, only a limited referendum to allow for abortion in cases of risk to life, rape, incest, and fatal foetal abnormality seems able to muster those ingredients for success."
She adds that this would be an improvement but would not go far enough for "most women in Ireland who wish to access abortion".
"These women exist across the spectrum: they are young and old; they already have children and substantial caring responsibilities and they do not; they are rich and poor and middle class, they are in direct provision; they are ill, they are healthy; they are our neighbours and sisters, our wives, girlfriends, mothers and daughters."
The minister says that these women "do not want to be pregnant without their consent".
"I am committed to them having the option not to be," she said.