Sunday 22 September 2019

Onus on parties to set out stance on abortion

Micheál Martin
Micheál Martin


Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, a former Minister for Health, says he is "not going there" and will not initiate any moves to repeal the Eighth Amendment. Yesterday one of Mr Martin's successors, former Health Minister James Reilly, placed the eternally divisive and deeply sensitive issue of lawful termination of pregnancy back on the political agenda when he called for a referendum early in the next term of government.

Dr Reilly said he "cannot countenance, as a doctor or human being" the scenario whereby women are forced to go through with their pregnancies in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities or forced to "sneak back in like criminals" if they have such a termination abroad. The Minister for Children also said he believes it is "very difficult to ask a woman who has been raped and violated to continue to carry a child".

The deputy leader of Fine Gael received strong backing from Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who restated that, in her view, the Constitution is not the place to deal with complex issues such as abortion. Ms Fitzgerald also called for a detailed discussion on what would repeal the Eighth Amendment.

The joint interventions by two senior Fine Gael Cabinet members will increase pressure on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to outline the party's position on the Eighth Amendment ahead of the general election.

Mr Kenny has shown no inclination to set out his or his party's position on abortion.

And it's not just Fine Gael: all candidates seeking election need to clarify their position, whatever that position may be.

At the very least, Mr Kenny should outline whether he envisages sticking with the status quo for the next five years or formally examining this complex area of the Constitution.

Any discussion on the Eighth Amendment means listening to more than the shouty voices at the extreme ends of the abortion law spectrum. It means listening to women, to parents, their doctors and a whole range of experts.

It means creating safe spaces for difficult conversations.

It requires political leadership and, above all, compassion.

Irish Independent

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