The Repeal Debate

by Emma Nolan

Following last Saturday’s March for Choice which saw more than 40,000 people take to the streets of Dublin, The Gazette asked City councillors and TDs for their stance on next year’s abortion referendum.

Last week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced that a referendum on the eight amendment, which states that the right to life of the mother and the unborn child are equal, will take place in May or June 2018.

Under the current law, a woman can face up to 14 years in prison for having an abortion in Ireland. However, around 11 women each day travel from Ireland to the UK to access terminations.

The Gazette asked TDs and councillors for their position on this divisive issue. Every single councillor and TD in DLR was contacted – here are the ones that replied at the time of going to print.

Cllr Deirdre Kingston (Lab): “I am absolutely in favour of repealing the 8th amendment. I am in favour of repeal because the constitution is no place to deal with women’s healthcare issues and it simply does not reflect the reality of modern Ireland.

“I am eight months pregnant and its frightening to think that if I experienced complications and my life was in danger, there could a question mark or a debate over the healthcare I receive.

“Furthermore, 12 Irish women travel to Britain every day to access abortion services, and these are the only the ones who can afford to do so. There are many more women who are on lower incomes who simply do not have that option. We can continue to keep our heads in the sand by exporting the issue, or we can deal with it compassionately and empathetically, and repealing the 8th will allow us to do that.”

Cllr Hugh Lewis (PBP): “People Before Profit fully support the repeal of the 8th amendment, on a local and national level we are to the fore of campaigning for a woman’s right to choose. The massive display of people power in Dublin last Saturday is evidence of the hunger in our society for the repeal of the 8th and ultimately the need to trust women to make their own decisions over their own body.”

Cllr Denis O’Callaghan (Lab): “I will be supporting the campaign to the repeal of the 8th amendment.”

Cllr Melisa Halpin (PBP): “I am in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment and have, indeed, campaigned for that for many years. I believe the issue of abortion has no place in our constitution so am against replacing it with anything. I trust women and believe they should have the right to choose what they do with her own body. Legislation on the issue should include, as a minimum, the recommendations of the Citizen’s Assembly.”

Cllr Anne Colgan (Ind): “I am reserving judgement until the referendum wording is published as I think all depends on what is being proposed.”

Cllr Sorcha Nic Cormaic (SF): “I fully support a repeal of the 8th amendment and I will be campaigning for repeal, followed by the enactment of legislation that would allow for termination in the case of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality.

“I believe the 8th amendment affects women and their families in every part of the country. The 8th amendment is about so much more than abortion.

“Until the 8th amendment is repealed there exists in this country an unacceptable situation for women and girls where, unlike all other patients in Ireland, who have the right to access the medical treatment they feel is most appropriate for them, they do not have the right to make decisions about their own pre-natal care. Being pregnant in Ireland means not having autonomy in lots of health decisions. This is only an infringement on the rights of pregnant women.”

Cllr Dave O’Keefe (PBP): “I am fully in support of repealing not replacing the 8th amendment, I believe that what a woman chooses to do with her own body has absolutely no place in the constitution.

“I firmly believe that access to abortion should be free, safe and legal for all women on the island of Ireland. Irish women currently can access abortion in the UK and elsewhere, provided they are wealthy and free enough to travel. The 8th as it stands creates further inequality. In so far as poorer women, refugees, asylum seekers and migrant workers without re-entry visas are denied access to abortion. All women on the Ireland of Ireland should have access to free, safe and legal abortion in Ireland where they can have the support of their friends and family and can have the procedure as early as possible or as late as is necessary.”

Catherine Martin TD (GP): “The Green Party is in favour of repeal of the 8th Amendment, and for the Dail to legislate on the issue following repeal.

“At the time it was introduced, the Attorney General warned that the 8th Amendment would be problematic, and this has proven to be the case, complicating the work of medical professionals, and forcing women to travel abroad for access to services that are widely available in other countries.”

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