herald

Monday 17 December 2018

'Now we can get on with letting people have their say' - Harris after ruling on rights of unborn

Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone
Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone

A landmark court ruling will allow the Government to press ahead with an abortion referendum, Health Minister Simon Harris has said.

In its ruling, the seven-member Supreme Court decision found that the unborn has no constitutional rights beyond the right to life contained in the Eighth Amendment.

It unanimously rejected a High Court ruling which found the unborn had other rights under the Constitution and was considered a child, with rights the State is expected to vindicate.

Clarity

"Now we can get on with allowing the people of Ireland to have their say in a referendum this May," he said in a tweet.

"I will now bring the Referendum Bill to cabinet."

Children and Youth Affairs Minister Katherine Zappone said: "I welcome the clarity offered by today's Supreme Court decision and look forward to ... putting the 8th amendment before the Irish people."

Fine Gael party colleague Senator Catherine Noone also welcomed the court's clear and unanimous decision.

Ms Noone chaired the all-party parliamentary committee that recommended the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

Currently, terminations are allowed only when the life of the mother is at risk, including from suicide. The maximum penalty for accessing an illegal abortion is 14 years in prison.

Campaigners across Ireland are seeking to liberalise the regime to allow unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

If the referendum goes ahead, voters will be asked whether they want to remove the section of the constitution that gives equal right to life to the mother and the unborn, and to allow parliament to regulate the termination of pregnancy.

Senator Noone said: "Today the Supreme Court made a landmark decision.

"This judgment will allow us to move forward to a May referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

"It is my belief that the only rights afforded to the unborn under the current constitutional status, is the right to life provided for in the Eighth Amendment and this does not extend to other areas of the constitution.

"I urge us all to accept the court's judgment in good faith and move forward in a civilised and respectful manner".

Labour Party TD Jan O'Sullivan welcomed the clarity provided by the ruling.

"The decision paves the way for the Oireachtas to debate with clarity the wording of the proposed government referendum, which is coming before the Dail this week.

"I look forward to engaging in the debate with my Oireachtas colleagues, and would again call on the Government to keep to its timetable of a May referendum so that the maximum number of people will be available to vote on the issue, many for the first time."

Equal

In January, the Government formally agreed to hold a referendum on the Eighth Amendment. The move came after the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment recommended the repeal of Article 40.3.3. The article recognises the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn.

The report stated that constitutional provision prohibiting the termination of pregnancy in Ireland was unfit for purpose and in need of reform.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said he welcomed the unanimous ruling.

"[It] offers real clarity, and paves the way for a referendum on the 8th Amendment," he said.

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