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The Cabinet will discuss legislative proposals tomorrow. Eamonn Farrell/

Simon Coveney u-turn: Tánaiste now says he backs 12 weeks proposal

Coveney had previously expressed concerns about the government’s plans.

TÁNAISTE SIMON COVENEY has changed his stance on the government’s legislative proposals for abortion and now says he supports access to terminations up to 12 weeks.

Writing in the Irish Independent, Coveney said that he has spoken with Health Minister Simon Harris and “senior clinicians” about the safeguards that will be in place in the proposed regime and that this has eased his concerns.

Speaking at the beginning of February, Coveney said that he supported the repeal of the Eighth Amendment but could not back the proposal to allow unrestricted access up to 12 weeks.

Writing today, Coveney says he feels the protocols that will be in place mean that there will be no “unrestricted access to abortion at any point in pregnancy”.

“When it comes to prescribing abortion pills early in pregnancy, I have struggled most with this issue. 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,” Coveney said.

I will say at Cabinet tomorrow that I could support a law that allows access to such medication up to 12 weeks of gestation, effectively 10 weeks of pregnancy, if it is coupled with strict guidelines – resulting in a “clinical protocol” to be followed in every case when an abortion is requested.

Late- term abortions 

Coveney goes on to say that he is satisfied that so-called late-term abortions will not be allowed under the government’s proposals. Such terminations are something Coveney says he “could never support”.

“The government will move to close off any suggestion of that happening by stating that a baby who could survive outside the womb could not be aborted in any circumstances,” the Tánaiste says.

Coveney also speaks about the abortion debate in general and says that since he voiced his concerns about the 12-week limit he has been “overwhelmed by the numbers who have stopped me in supermarkets, on streets, in Leinster House or in public to say they share similar concerns”.

“It worries me that I have heard people who raise legitimate questions about the right to life of an unborn child being dismissed as dinosaurs or anti-women,” Coveney adds.

The Cabinet will tomorrow meet to discuss the draft legislation that could be passed to regulate abortion should the Eighth Amendment be repealed.

Read: Pro-choice campaigners say they will ‘of course’ accept result of referendum >

Read: TDs approve Eighth Amendment referendum Bill >

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