Two-thirds majority to amend abortion law
Coveney seeks to reassure voters of ‘no creeping change’
It will take a two-thirds majority of TDs to amend legislation allowing for abortion up to 12 weeks once introduced under proposals brought forward by Tánaiste Simon Coveney.
The Foreign Affairs Minister will today try to convince colleagues to include a two-thirds majority lock in order to limit the potential for a future Dáil to establish a more liberal abortion regime.
Such a mechanism would make it impossible for any one political grouping to change the law in the future as is being claimed by campaigners against repealing the Eighth Amendment.
The move is likely to be met with scorn by many pro-choice activists, but could help reassure middle-ground voters.
A spokesperson for Mr Coveney told the Irish Independent: "The Tánaiste is looking for a two-thirds majority to be necessary if there was ever any attempt to alter the law in the future.
"To put that into context, that is more than the combined strength of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in the current Dáil."
He said that Mr Coveney, who only yesterday announced he will support abortion up to 12 weeks, wants to counter "the reckless claims that our parliament can't be trusted and to reassure voters that there will be no creeping change over time if they vote repeal".
Health Minister Simon Harris will today bring a detailed memo to Cabinet outlining the type of abortion regime he would propose if the Eighth Amendment is repealed.
It includes a law that women must wait three days between first requesting an abortion from their GP and the termination being carried out.
Beyond 12 weeks, terminations will only be available in exceptional circumstances - on the grounds of risk of serious harm to the health or life of the woman, in emergency situations or in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.
In all other circumstances, abortion will remain unlawful.
- Read more: 'I want the people of Ireland to have their say' - Health Minister 'disappointed' in TDs who voted against Abortion Bill
In cases where this is a risk to the life, or of serious harm to the health, of a woman, termination would not be lawful beyond viability.
The viability of the foetus would be assessed and agreed by two doctors, one of whom would be an obstetrician or a gynaecologist.
If viability is established and the pregnancy is ended on health grounds then it will be done through early delivery, with a full medical team on hand.
Mr Harris will also brief ministers on measures aimed at reducing crisis pregnancy.
This includes increased access to obstetric care and counselling, and contraception.
Mr Coveney is expected to be a central figure during today's Cabinet meeting on the issue.
His decision to join Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in supporting abortion up to 12 weeks has been met with a mixed reaction by both sides of the debate.
The Save the Eighth campaign claimed Mr Coveney's shift in position showed the Government is not to be trusted on the issue.
Spokeswoman Niamh Uí Bhriain accused him of being more concerned about poll numbers than legislation.
"When Simon Coveney says he is against something, the only thing that means is that he will support it next year," she said.
"The public cannot trust politicians to have a restrictive law on abortion," she added.
However, Dr Mark Murphy, a Dublin GP and spokesman for the Together for Yes group, welcomed Mr Coveney's shift in position but said "small print details would still have to be ironed out".
"The Tánaiste's position is part of an emerging consensus we believe in, that when citizens take the time to look into the evidence and the facts which are put forward by clinicians, they form this view.
"Mr Coveney has reiterated that there are strict protocols, guidelines and processes to ensure that the doctor and the woman come up with evidence-based decisions that support her care."