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Friday 22 September 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Alamy Stock Photo Leo Varadkar said that abortion should not be a party political issue.
# Abortion
Taoiseach suggests Dáil vote for PBP abortion bill could speed up legal changes
The bill, which seeks wider access to abortion services, passed second stage in the Dáil last night.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said that the passing of a People Before Profit bill that seeks wider access to abortion services could speed up legislative changes.  

The People Before Profit bill, brought by Bríd Smith, passed second stage in the Dáil last night with 67 votes to 64. 

Coalition parties were given a free vote on the matter.

A government amendment to delay the bill for a year was defeated by 74 votes to 61 with three abstentions.

The passing of the bill will allow the Oireachtas Health Committee to consider making legislative changes to the current abortion laws while examining the report.

Speaking to reporters in Moldova today, Varadkar said: “What the Government’s intention was was to allow the Health Committee of the Oireachtas to consider the O’Shea report – the independent review of that legislation – before looking at any particular legislation changes.

“The vote in the Dáil now changes that. It is now possible for the Health Committee to both look at Ms O’Shea’s report and also, at the same time, consider legislative changes, because deputy Smith’s bill has now passed second stage. So that’s what will now happen.

“It’s a big job of work, both for deputy Smith and for the committee and the committee members to do, but that is how democracy works and that is what parliamentarians are for.”

At the Health Committee yesterday, O’Shea rejected a claim from Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan that the removal of the three-day waiting period for women seeking an abortion would result in legal challenges.

She stated that failing to implement the changes recommended in her report could actually result in legal challenges.

“Anytime we sign up to an international convention, we’re supposed to interpret our law in a way that is consistent with the obligations under that convention and I think this act is falling far short of that,” she said.

“If you don’t do anything, I think it’s only a question of time before you see a repeat of Mellet vs Ireland, and Whelan vs Ireland, and the taoiseach standing up in the Dáil making an apology and paying a sum of money to people.”

Asked about the prospect of legal challenges today, Varadkar said: “The State’s always at risk of legal challenges, no matter what our laws are on abortion. That’s the nature of how democracy works.

“I think the risk is there, whether we act or whether we don’t, and even if we did act, I think there’s also risks. I think that’s a statement of fact,” he said.

“What I would say is this: back in 2017, on my first day as Taoiseach, I said that we should have a referendum on abortion, that people had a right to make a decision on whether we should change our abortion laws. That happened.

“We had a referendum, a very clear majority for change. We made that happen. We brought it into legislation under Minister Harris and set up the service so now it’s available.”

He emphasised that he has always said that abortion should not be a party political issue.

“It shouldn’t be about people scoring points or politicians scoring points. It’s about women and about children and what’s best for them, and everyone should be allowed to have their own opinion on this and that opinion should be respected.”

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