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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 31 March, 2020

Simon Harris opens abortion debates by listing counties of women who travelled for abortions

It was the first of two days of debate.


HEALTH MINISTER SIMON Harris today kicked off the Dáil’s debate on the report of Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment by listing the counties of those women who travelled to Britain for abortions.

The three and a half hour debate saw TDs give their opinions on the report, which recommends that Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution should be repealed.

Article 40.3.3 deals with the right to life of a pregnant mother and her unborn.

Its place in the Constitution effectively bans abortion from taking place legally in most scenarios in Ireland.

Opening the debate, Harris said it marked “another moment on a long journey”.

“Real women like the 36 from County Carlow who travelled to the UK for an abortion in 2016, or the 38 from Mayo, the 69 women from Tipperary, the 85 from Wicklow, the 241 from Cork or the 1,175 women from Dublin.

“Women from every county in the Republic of Ireland travelled to the UK in 2016. I think we need to acknowledge them all.

49 from Kerry and 130 from Kildare. 21 from Leitrim and 20 from Roscommon. 69 from Wexford.
33 from Cavan and 15 from Monaghan. 99 from Limerick. 53 from Clare. 38 from Westmeath. 63 from Donegal. 113 from Galway. 44 from Kilkenny. 42 from Laois. 83 from Louth and 100 from Meath. 28 from Offaly and 29 from Sligo. 16 from Longford. 56 from Waterford.
In 2016, 3,265 Irish women travelled to the UK alone and we know that Irish women travel to other countries like the Netherlands too. Over 1,200 of the women who went to the UK were aged between 30 and 39 and over 1,500 were aged between 20 and 29. 255 were aged 40 or over. 10 were girls under the age of 16. 230 were teenagers. Over half of the women who travelled were married, in a civil partnership, or in a relationship. 85% of the women were between 3 and 12 weeks pregnant. It is estimated that at least 170,000 Irish women have travelled to other countries for abortions since 1980.
These are not faceless women. They are our friends and neighbours, sisters, cousins, mothers, aunts, wives. Each woman is dealing with her own personal situation and making what is a deeply difficult decision.

The debate heard from Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald, who called for a referendum that puts a simple repeal of the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution to the people. Her party leader Gerry Adams said that while he had his own opinion, he did not feel like he could impose it on others.

“It is not for any of us here to cast judgement on anybody for doing what they feel they need to do.

“It is for women to make that judgement.”


Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte, a member of the committee, said that hearing testimony from a father whose child had a fatal foetal abnormality was a “turning point” for her.

“He doesn’t want anybody, ever again, to go through what he went through.

“And do you know what? Neither do I.”

Her experiences were echoed by Fine Gael’s Hildegarde Naughton, another member of the committee. She said that while she wished no woman had to have an abortion, she could not support the status quo.

On the other side, Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae told the Dáil that “thousands” of lives had been saved by the amendment.

“People voted for the Eighth Amendment in huge numbers – it has saved many lives.

“It could be 100,000 lives, it could be 50,000 – it could be 5,000 people saved by the Eighth Amendment.”

The debate resumes tomorrow.

Watch the full debate below.


Read: Taoiseach to make his own views known on abortion in a ‘couple of weeks’

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