Simon Harris: It would be 'desirable' to use Oireachtas abortion committee's findings for referendum

By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith

Health Minister Simon Harris has backed calls for the Oireachtas abortion committee's findings to be used as the template for next year's eighth amendment referendum despite claims substantial changes could be made before a vote.

Mr Harris said such a move would be "desirable" and "obviously makes sense", despite noting this is "just my gut answer" and that he will need to wait until the exact recommendations are agreed over the coming days.

Speaking to RTE Radio's Today With Sean O'Rourke programme before the committee meets in private on Wednesday to vote on its recommendation proposals before providing a report to the Oireachtas by December 20, Mr Harris said he does not believe the eighth amendment should be in the Constitution.

Asked about widespread reports the committee will recommend a repeal of the eighth amendment and the allowance of abortion in all cases up to 12 weeks, Mr Harris said he has "never sat on the fence" on the issue and believes such a recommendation should be acted upon.

"Well, look, I haven't sat on the fence in relation to this. I've been very clear that I want to see the eighth amendment repealed, I don't believe the Constitution is the best place to deal with this issue, I believe legislation is.

"I'm conscious they're [the committee] at a very sensitive time in their deliberations and I don't want to be seen to be influencing it too much, because I'll be the minister responsible for bringing their recommendations to the Dáil.

"But I look forward to receiving their recommendations," Mr Harris said.

Asked if he would support a full repeal and free access to abortions in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, the Health Minister added: "Obviously the Government will have to make the decision, but obviously my own view is that would be desirable.

"I think the Oireachtas committee on a cross-party basis has done huge work following on from the Citizens' Assembly, and obviously if they come forward with clear cut recommendations it would obviously make sense [to put those recommendations to the public] because we did ask them to do this body of work.

"At the same time, the Government has a responsibility to legally check this body of work because we need to make sure it is constitutionally sound. So, yes is my gut answer, but we just need to see the detail of the proposals first," he said.



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