Thursday 26 April 2018

Abortion vote will pass, says Doherty, 'but we can't be complacent'

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty admitted that the Government could not be complacent about repealing the Eighth. Photo: Tony Gavin
Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty admitted that the Government could not be complacent about repealing the Eighth. Photo: Tony Gavin

Shona Murray

A senior Government minister was forced to clarify remarks she had made which cast doubt over whether the abortion referendum could be carried.

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said: "Standing right now, if nobody does anything, I don't think this referendum will pass."

The Fine Gael TD was speaking on RTÉ's 'The Week In Politics' programme after an opinion poll showed 48pc of respondents said they would vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment alongside proposals by Government to allow unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks.

However, in the latest 'Sunday Independent'/Kantar Millward Brown poll, a third of voters (33pc) said permitting abortion up to 12 weeks went "too far".

Ms Doherty later said: "I believe the referendum can and will pass. I and members of the Government will campaign for it. But we can't be complacent, which is why I said earlier that we have a job to do to sell it.

"Many people aren't aware of the medical and scientific evidence that was presented to the Citizens' Assembly, and the Committee on the Eighth, which helped us arrive at the current proposal.

"We need to help people realise that there is clear medical evidence to support the committee's recommendations in relation to 12 weeks."

The Cabinet has agreed to legislate for access to abortion up to 12 weeks gestation should the repeal referendum pass. They took their lead from recommendations by the committee.

The committee said a 12-week limit was necessary as a way of mitigating against the dangers that exist where women are taking abortion tablets without medical supervision.

More than 1,500 abortion tablets have been posted to Ireland since 2010.

There was also an acceptance that legislating for abortion in cases of rape and incest alone was too complicated due to the burden of proof required and the impact such interrogation would have on a rape victim.

"That needs to be explained clearly to people; with reasons and evidence, so there is a job of work to be done there," said Ms Doherty.

Polls

Meanwhile, Health Minister Simon Harris is bringing the heads of the Referendum Bill to Cabinet tomorrow.

The Government will publish information on its intended legislation in early March so members of the public will know the exact implications of their vote when they go to the polls in May or June.

A spokesperson for Mr Harris said he agreed there was a "huge amount of work to be done".

He added: "The minister believes the current situation in Ireland where women are forced abroad to have a termination, where women are purchasing abortion pills illegally online and where women in extremely difficult situations are left isolated and neglected, that the people will vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment."

Irish Independent

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