Thursday 19 April 2018

Varadkar stresses 12-week limit on abortion 'not plucked out of air'

Church of Ireland rejects unrestricted access

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Frank McGrath
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Frank McGrath
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has refused to criticise Tánaiste Simon Coveney for proposing that GPs could sign off on abortion for rape victims - but said the 12-week proposal was "not plucked out of the air".

Mr Coveney supports repeal of the Eighth Amendment, but has said there should be protection for the unborn and is against unrestricted access to terminations.

This has caused concern among his Government colleagues who fear his stance will sway TDs who are undecided on the 12-week issue.

Yesterday, Mr Varadkar said he was not willing to personalise debate on the Eighth Amendment, but he reaffirmed his position supporting abortions up to 12 weeks and in cases of risk to the mother's health and fatal foetal abnormalities.

He refused to say if Mr Coveney's proposal that GPs would be able to sanction a termination in cases of rape and incest was workable.

"The proposals the Government is putting forward, and you will see that draft legislation and the detailed general scheme in a few weeks' time, were not plucked out of the air," said the Taoiseach.

"That came from the committee after lengthy deliberations and was built on advice from the Citizens' Assembly.

"So, the reason why the all-party committee came to the recommendations it did was because it did consider all of those things carefully."

He also reiterated calls for a respectful debate, adding he was not willing to personalise or engage with the viewpoints held by particular people.

"We are going to have a debate as a nation over the next few months about whether or not we should change our abortion laws and I have always said I want that debate to be respectful and never to be personalised," said Mr Varadkar.

"I am not going to engage in commentary on what any other individual has to say about this."

The Taoiseach's comments came as high-ranking officials in the Church of Ireland said they favoured a modification of the Eighth Amendment enabling the Oireachtas to have legislative responsibility to address the termination of pregnancies in rare circumstances.

In a joint statement yesterday, Archbishop of Armagh Dr Richard Clarke and Archbishop of Dublin Dr Michael Jackson said they reject unrestricted access to abortion.

Terminations should be justifiable in cases of rape or instances where the life of a woman is at serious risk, they added.

"We recognise the dilemma faced both by legislators and by medical, nursing and healthcare practitioners with regards to access to unrestricted abortion during the early months of pregnancy," they said.

"However, unrestricted access to abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, or indeed at any stage, is not an ethical position we can accept."

They also called for female voices to be listened to on the issue.

"We would suggest that current legislation should be strengthened to ensure that the needs of pregnant women facing difficult situations can be addressed quickly and comprehensively through improved support services.

"This will require significant and sustained investment in both medical and mental health services," they added.

"We acknowledge that too often in this debate the voice of women has not been heard. The Church will seek to continue to care for and pastorally stand alongside women, and their partners and families, who face immensely difficult situations."

Irish Independent

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