Belfast Telegraph

Simon Coveney changes abortion stance to back 12-week termination model

The Tanaiste said he backs the proposal with strict medical protocols.

Ireland’s deputy premier has changed his stance on potential new abortion laws for the country by backing terminations up to 12 weeks into pregnancy.

The Government intends to table legislation that would permit women to abort within 12 weeks if citizens vote to repeal Ireland’s strict constitutional position on abortions in this summer’s anticipated referendum.

While Tanaiste Simon Coveney had backed the call to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the constitution – a provision that makes abortion illegal in all but exceptional circumstances – he had voiced opposition to the Government’s proposed alternative, the 12-week model.

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But he has now shifted position. Explaining his decision, he cited concern that if abortion pills were not made available in that time frame, women would continue to access them online and without the advice of a doctor.

He said he backed the 12-week proposal if it was accompanied by strict medical protocols.

“When it comes to prescribing abortion pills early in pregnancy, I have struggled most with this issue,” he wrote in the Irish Independent.

“If we do nothing, we know pills will continue to be purchased online and taken without medical advice or supervision. We cannot knowingly allow this to continue, given the dangers involved.”

On Tuesday Health minister Simon Harris will outline detailed proposals to cabinet colleagues on the potential shape of future legislation if there is a repeal vote in the referendum.

Those will include a pause period within the 12-week timeframe, so a woman would have to wait at least 48 hours after requesting a pill for it to be prescribed. The proposed laws will also outlaw late term abortions, other than in medical emergency situations.

Mr Coveney wrote: “I could never support a law that allows for late-term abortions. The Government will move to close off any suggestion of that happening by stating that a baby who could survive outside the womb will not be aborted in any circumstance.”

The Tanaiste also said he was concerned that anti-abortion advocates in Ireland were “being dismissed as dinosaurs or anti-women” in the referendum debate.

“Removing the equal right to life of the unborn from our constitution is not something I easily or immediately supported,” he said.

“I say this as a husband and father of three beautiful young girls.”

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