Sunday 22 September 2019

Final Results

Repeal the Eighth Amendment?

Yes 66.40% 1,429,981

No 33.60% 723,632

  • Constituencies declared: 40/40

Referendum Hub

Coveney reveals what convinced him to back abortion

Simon Coveney. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Simon Coveney. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Ralph Riegel

Tánaiste Simon Coveney revealed he dramatically changed his position on potential post-Eighth Amendment legislation following an emotional private meeting with a young woman who had gone through a crisis pregnancy.

The Cork TD said he "confronted myself" over the potential aftermath of the amendment's repeal.

"At the start of this year I was one of those undecided people," he said.

"I strongly believed the status quo was letting Irish women down to a point that was endangering them.

"I also knew that thousands of women were having abortions in secret and abroad, often on their own, away from home.

"Or, hidden in their own homes - purchasing drugs online and with no medical support or advice except from a Google search.

"As Tánaiste, I know I have a responsibility to change this ugly reality. Also to face up to some truths - that, as a country, we haven't been able to face up to for whatever reason."

Speaking at Fine Gael's Cork Yes campaign launch, he said he originally had reservations about allowing abortion on demand up to 12 weeks.

But the Tánaiste said he then carefully considered proposed Government legislation.

"I don't mind saying that I was deeply conflicted by one of the recommendations in the all-party Oireachtas committee for what was then interpreted as unrestricted access to abortion for up to the first 12 weeks of gestation.

"That single recommendation though has, in many ways, dominated simplistic headlines and debates without reflecting the detail of the law the Government is now proposing if we vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

"I confronted myself - to actually look at what a system could be like if we try to get the balance right.

"The law that the Government is now proposing is anything but unrestricted access to abortion."

Mr Coveney said late-term abortions will be prohibited, private abortion clinics will not be allowed, abortion on the grounds of disability will not be permitted, strict medical guidelines must be followed, women seeking a termination must also consider other alternatives, secondary scans will be required, counselling supports will be provided and any prescription will only be issued with a 72-hour pause period.

He revealed a key element of his changing his stance was meeting a young woman who had a crisis pregnancy.

"Apart from my own personal experiences with pregnancy with my wife - we have three beautiful daughters - a young girl from Cork came to see me. I don't want to name her. She told me a very similar story [to others who lost a baby to a fatal foetal abnormality]. It was horrific.

"So what are we doing here? Are we pretending that abortion doesn't take place in Ireland? Because of the Constitution?

"Or are we willing to recognise that yes, it is happening.

"Are we seriously suggesting that we should send people abroad or allow them, in the privacy of their own homes, on advice that they get online, to end a pregnancy?"

It is estimated 3,265 Irish women travel overseas each year for abortions.

Irish Independent

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