Latest: Dáil concludes second stage debate on Abortion Referendum Bill

Update 11.50pm: The Dáil has concluded the second stage debate on the Abortion Referendum Bill.

The late night discussion was to facilitate the speedy passage of the legislation.

The government needs to have the bill signed into law by Easter to allow for a May referendum.

Health Minister Simon Harris thinks it has been a good debate

"I think it has been a continuation of a respectful debate," said Mr Harris.

"I think that's important. I think it's important that we set the tone in this House, that we hope when the debate leaves this House, is the tone that can be continued."

Update 10.05pm: Keeping Eighth Amendment would criminalise women who do take the abortion pill, says Richard Boyd Barrett

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett has said that retaining the Eighth Amendment would criminalise women who take the abortion pill.

He made the claim during in tonight's Sáil debate of the abortion referendum bill.

He told the Dáil that the Eighth Amendment has had "appalling" consequences and that the majority of people want change.

Watch the debate live here ...

Richard Boyd Barrett said women should have the right to an abortion up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

"It simply acknowledges the reality that three to five women a day are already accessing the abortion pill in this country," he said.

"So if we say we shouldn't allow this 12 weeks, we shouldn't allow women to make that choice up until 12 weeks, what we're saying is that we should continue to criminalise women who do take the abortion pill. That's what we're saying."

Update 8pm: Sinn Féin TD claims austerity measures increased demand for abortion A Sinn Féin TD has outlined in the Dáil why he won't be supporting his party's position of campaigning to repeal the 8th amendment.

Peadar Tóibín said removing the right to life of the unborn was one of a number of Government policies that hurt children.

He claimed austerity measures had forced more women to opt for an abortion.

He made the claim during the ongoing debate on the Abortion Referendum Bill which is expected to continue until midnight.

Deputy Tóibín told the Dáil that the Government's priorities are all wrong.

"So what does it say about a particular Government that at a time when hundreds of thousands of children are living in crisis amongst us now, that the next seven months of the Government's time would be consumed by deleting the right to life of the unborn child," he said.

Update 7.40pm: Brendan Howlin defends 12-week recommendation in abortion proposals

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin has defended the 12-week recommendation in the proposal to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

He said that such a proposal was necessary to give adequate protection to the lives and health of women.

"I refer of course to the tragedy of fatal foetal abnormalities, pregnancy arising from cases of rape and incest and cases that impact upon the health of women," he said.

"It is critical to recall that the reason the (Oireachtas) Committee achieved the level of agreement that it did is because, after detailed and careful consideration of the issue, it could see no practical way to address these issues without allowing for cases of abortion up to 12 weeks.

"That proposal came about because it was and remains the only way of addressing these hard cases.

"Any other approach – to prove rape or incest for example, would be impossible and indeed unacceptable when once again policemen and lawyers would move in, where doctors and medical practitioners should be the people assisting the women at a time of distress."

He urged TDs to recognise the current situation where pregnancies were being terminated either by travel to clinics abroad or by the importation of abortion pills.

"Abortion takes place in this country already - the abortion pill is perhaps the transformative medical disruption since the last referendum," he said.

"It is a fact that cannot be ignored, that many Irish women import abortion pills and take them in their own homes.

"That is illegal as the law now stands – does anyone seriously suggest that we now set about arresting, prosecuting and jailing all the women who have imported or taken these pills?"

Update 7.30pm: Abortion debate: "I just cannot understand ... how we have come to this”, FF TD Fianna Fáil TD and party spokesperson for Older People, Mary Butler, has told the Dail why she will not be supporting the repeal of the 8th Amendment.

In an emotional speech the Waterford TD said: "I just cannot understand, with no restriction as to reason how we have come to this”

Ms Burke was speaking at the Dáil debate on the Abortion Referendum Bill which resumed this evening and is expected to continue until midnight.

Update 6.15pm: Disability should not be part of the abortion debate: Lisa Chambers

Fianna Fail TD Lisa Chambers said tonight that repealing the 8th Amendment will not lead to abortion for pregnancies where there is evidence of a disability.

Deputy Chambers began the Dáil debate on the Abortion Referendum Bill which resumed this evening and is expected to continue until midnight.

She said that it is not the case that the Oireachtas committee on abortion sought to introduce abortion in the case of a disability.

"We took a vote on this issue, and we voted categorically against disability being a ground for termination - we voted No for that.

"It is not part of this debate, it should not be part of this debate, and many families and many parents of children with disabilities and children with Down Syndrome have come out to say that they are absolutely disgusted that children are being used in this way in this campaign, and I think that it is totally wrong."

Update 5.14pm: Dail debate on abortion referendum bill is underway

A debate on the abortion referendum bill is getting underway in the Dáil and is expected to continue until midnight.

TDs will sit late again tomorrow in a bid to get the Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018 passed before the Easter break.

Update 10.22am: Abortion vote can be held in May, Harris

Speaking on his way into Cabinet this morning, the Health Minister Simon Harris said he still believes it will be possible to hold the vote in May.

“Out of fairness to all of our citizens, I think the importance of having factual and impartial information so people can make an informed decision is something we can surely all agree on,” he said.

“So I think if we can pass the bill through both houses of the Oireachtas before the Easter break; that would give the Referendum Commission a good period of time to run a public information campaign that could provide our citizens with factual impartial information”

Mr Harris said the Dáil will sit until midnight tonight and 11pm tomorrow.

Sinn Féin has brought forward its Ard Fheis to June to decide what its policy will be on proposed abortion legislation - should the 8th be repealed.

Party leader Mary Lou McDonald has defended holding it after a referendum on the matter.

She said: "We will categorically campaign for the repeal of the eighth amendment, and we will participate in a legitimate public consideration and debate on the nature of the legislation that follows."

7.49am: Dáil to debate abortion referendum and Govt's Strategic Communications Unit

TDs are prepared to sit in the Dáil until midnight tonight debating the bill on the abortion referendum.

They have returned from their St Patrick's Day break a day early for the discussions.

The Eighth Amendment provides for the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn in the Constitution.

The bill TDs are debating will outline the exact wording of the question that is to be put to the electorate.

Voters will be asked whether to retain or repeal the Eighth Amendment – with the Oireachtas empowered to legislate in the event of repeal.

The public is expected to vote on the Eighth Amendment at the end of May.

The Dáil is also due to debate a Sinn Féin Private Members Motion aimed at disbanding the Government’s Strategic Communications Unit.

Fianna Fáil is due to confirm whether it will support the motion.

- Digital Desk


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