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Sunday 21 September 2014

President joins abortion row with call for 'certainty'

Lise Hand Paris

Published 19/02/2013 | 04:00

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PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has weighed into the abortion debate by stating that "certainty" is needed in medical procedures.

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In his second intervention in the controversy, Mr Higgins said he hadn't changed his views since the 1980s, when he was a campaigner for women's rights.

His comments will raise eyebrows, given his constitutional position. And they are likely to irk pro-life campaigners as his views will be interpreted as approving the need for legislation in the area.

Speaking during a trip to France, Mr Higgins said: "I think that really our consideration should be to have the best possible outcome for mothers and their babies as will make it safe, enable to bring the best for women into the future.

"You need certainty in medical practice, you need certainty most of all in relation to the woman's life and you also need to have such an approach as is capable of recognising the position of women and their vulnerabilities through pregnancy."

Speech

Mr Higgins's remarks on this controversial issue came during a questions-and-answers session with students, following a speech at the renowned Sorbonne university in Paris, where he is on a three-day official visit.

He was asked about the reform of Ireland's abortion laws and went on to explain that legislation was being prepared by the Government which would go to the Oireachtas.

"Then it comes before me as President for examination and consideration as to, among others things, its constitutionality.

"So I'm precluded in commenting while the two other Houses are examining it."

However, he made a direct reference to his vigorous campaigning for women's rights while he was a Labour politician.

"I'm unlikely not to know what the debate has been about, from all of the different campaigns that I fought in my previous life through the 1980s.

"Lest you might in the slightest think that I have changed my mind in any enormous way, I have not," he said.

This is the second time Mr Higgins has weighed into this sensitive debate which intensified after the death of 31-year old Indian woman Savita Halappanavar in Galway University Hospital, last October, when she was 17 weeks' pregnant.

Last November, while on a visit to Manchester, he also expressed an opinion on how an investigation into her death should proceed.

Irish Independent

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