Thursday 20 June 2019

Final Results

Repeal the Eighth Amendment?

Yes 66.40% 1,429,981

No 33.60% 723,632

  • Constituencies declared: 40/40

Referendum Hub

Humphreys finally backs Government plan to allow abortion up to 12 weeks

Intervention comes with days to go to referendum on the Eighth

Heather Humphreys. Photo: Justin Farrell
Heather Humphreys. Photo: Justin Farrell
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cabinet minister Heather Humphreys has intervened with days to go until the referendum to confirm she supports the Government's proposal to allow abortion up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

In an exclusive interview with the Irish Independent she cites concern over the healthcare that will be available for her own daughters in the future as the reason she's voting Yes.

And she reveals a heartbreaking email she received from a woman who had an abortion in England as a teenager as one of the factors in coming to her decision to back the 12 weeks proposal. She said the woman told how "she felt alone and distraught" and that "the Ireland that she lived in had let her down".

"It was a cold, hard place that she found herself in and she said that we owed it to the young girls of Ireland to do something and to help women who find themselves in that situation," said Ms Humphreys.

The 12 weeks proposal first emerged as a recommendation of the Oireachtas Committee that examined abortion. It was put forward as a way of addressing cases of rape, incest and the availability of abortion pills online.

The Government has adopted it as the abortion regime that would by introduced - subject to a Dáil vote - if the Eighth Amendment is repealed.

In recent months, Ms Humphreys has repeatedly said she hadn't made up her mind on the matter and had to consult with her Cavan-Monaghan constituents.

The Business Minister said she was intervening because: "I genuinely feel in my heart we have to do something for the women who are in this situation - for all the different reasons, for rape, for incest, for fatal foetal abnormality.

"We need to address this problem and we just can't keep putting it under the carpet. We cannot ignore it."

Ms Humphreys said: "I want to know when my daughters, if they go on to have children at some point in the future - which I hope they do - that they will get all the care that they need, particularly if difficulties arise."

She said the law as it stands was unclear for doctors.

"We saw happened in the Savita Halappanavar case where there was lack of clarity there and it ended up in a terrible, tragic situation where that young woman died.

"I know the mothers and grandmothers of Ireland want to know that when their children or grandchildren go on to have babies, that they get all the care that they need."

She said 3,500 women travelled to the UK for abortions every year and others took abortion pills bought online.

She rejected claims by the No side that what's proposed is unrestricted abortion on demand, pointing to the 72-hour waiting period. She also denied claims that it would lead to a UK-style regime that allows terminations late into a pregnancy. She said there were specific circumstances where a termination could take place after 12 weeks and it would require two doctors to certify there was a risk a mother's life or health.

She said abortions wouldn't be carried out after the point where the foetus had reached viability.

She was not trying to influence people with her intervention but had thought carefully about her position and "it's my duty to make my views known". She encouraged undecided voters to seek out the facts and come to their own conclusion.

She said she is a practising Presbyterian but "firmly of the view that Church and State should be separate" and she had to act for everybody in the country of all faiths and none.

Asked whether she would be concerned for her seat in a conservative rural constituency as a result of her Yes vote, she replied: "People will have to judge me on my record... I think people will respect me for telling the truth about how I feel."

Irish Independent

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