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Not now

This Labour minister wants an abortion referendum... but says it can't happen now

The call comes after it emerged that a woman was refused an abortion under the new Act.

Jan O'Sullivan
Jan O'Sullivan
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Updated 1.20pm 

EDUCATION MINISTER JAN O’Sullivan has said she would like to see a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment held in the future, but said it can’t happen under the current government.

O’Sullivan, a Labour TD, said this morning that she was concerned about the issue of fatal foetal abnormalities and said the emergence of the case of a woman who gave birth by caesarean after being refused an abortion was a “very, very difficult case”.

“I would like to see it in the future but it won’t happen in the lifetime of the current government,” O’Sullivan told RTÉ of the possibility of another referendum.

Earlier, junior justice minister Aodhán Ó Riordáin told the Irish Independent that the next government must be “brave enough” to call another abortion referendum. He said that the Constitutional Convention should be recalled to consider the matter.

The Labour TD has previously told this website that he does not believe the current coalition has the mandate to go beyond the legislation it introduced last year.

The case that has emerged over the weekend is one of the first under the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act which came into force last year and has drawn criticism both from pro-choice and pro-life campaigners.

The Pro Life Campaign said that the development highlighted the “horror and deep seated flaws” in the government’s legislation passed amid much controversy last year. Pro choice groups believe the law is “unsafe”.

‘Treated as vessels’

Four Labour groups within the party have called for the repeal of the 8th Amendment including Labour Women, Labour Youth, Labour Equality and Labour Intercultural.

They believe that the case highlights the need to repeal Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution which protects the right to life of the unborn “with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother”.

Sinead Ahern, the chair of Labour Women, said the case this case demonstrates that “those carrying the pregnancies are essentially treated as vessels devoid of independent human rights as was recently highlighted by the UN Human Rights Committee”.

“The only way these human rights violations can be stopped is by repealing the 8th amendment,” she said.

The amendment was made via a referendum in 1983 following pressure from pro-life groups. It was intended to completely outlaw abortion in Ireland. However the 1992 X Case resulted in the Supreme Court interpreting the law as giving a woman the right to an abortion in circumstances where her life is at risk, including from suicide.

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Repealing the amendment would require another referendum.

The chair of Labour Youth, Ciaran Garrett, said it appeared from the latest case that “at no point” were the rights of the woman, who is not an Irish national, respected.

“This young woman, who it seems was in an incredibly vulnerable state, appears to have been forced by our courts and by the HSE to undergo numerous invasive medical procedures against her will,” he said.

The chair of Labour Intercultural, Karen Mc Cormack, said the woman in question would “not have been subjected to this barbaric treatment” had she gone abroad for a termination.

First published 12.23pm 

Bishop: Caesarean a “better outcome than abortion” but creates risks

Read: National Women’s Council calls State refusal of abortion to woman ‘barbaric’>

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Hugh O'Connell

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