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11th Feb 2018

Leo Varadkar clarifies changed position on abortion: “The Eighth Amendment harms women”

Michael Lanigan

St. Patrick's Day

Varadkar has admitted that this is a fundamental change for him.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made clear the reason he has changed his position on abortion in Ireland, by saying that life experience and getting older has taught him that “things aren’t as black and white as they appear in your 20s.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week, the Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader said his tenure as Minister for Health and reading of reports on the Mrs P and Ms Y cases revealed the flaws in the Irish Consitution’s 8th Amendment. “Rather than doctors [making] those decisions for the right medical reasons, or women being entrusted to make decisions for themselves, those cases ended up in our courts.”

“That’s why I’m of the view that the Eighth Amendment harms women.”

Addressing his past comments, including those in May of 2010 when he opposed the procedure for victims of rape, he admitted the “fundamental shift” in his viewpoint. “I don’t think I’m the only person in the country whose views on this have evolved.”

Now however, he says “we’re asking Irish society to bring about change” and urged voters “to trust women” in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and doctors afterwards, to permit the procedure in only exceptional circumstances.

Later, when asked about how his views are different from that of an Tánaiste, Simon Coveney – who believes 12 weeks might be a step too far – Varadkar said the most important thing about any debates is that they “always be respectful.”

He also noted that all TDs and members of his cabinet had the right to voice their own views, since it is a very “personal matter.”

The main reasons why his views had changed, and why a proposal of unrestricted access during the first 12 weeks was necessary came as a result of the conclusions drawn by the Citizens Assembly and Oireachtas Committee.

He acknowledged that “it’s a reality” that women buy abortion pills online. “Unsafe abortions are happening in Ireland”, he insisted. Repealing the eight would be the only way of protecting Irish citizens, by making sure women can have the procedure “safely and under medical supervision.”

The Taoiseach has previously stated that the planned referendum will take place in May 2018.

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