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Government preparing for 12-week abortion limit despite Cabinet doubts

13 January 2018

As well as recommending that the effective ban on abortion be removed from the Constitution, the committee recommended that a lawful termination be available without restriction up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. "I have a different view to Minister Donohoe on this".

However, others have reservations about the plans for various reasons, or support them in part but not the 12 weeks aspect. Some others Ministers were non-commital.

The Taoiseach confirmed before Christmas that all Fine Gael Oireachtas members will have a free vote on any referendum proposal when it goes before the Dáil and Seanad.

The minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, said the issue was "complex and emotive" and that she would continue to consult members of her constituency, particularly women.

The cabinet will make a decision before the end of the month on this issue and Mr Varadkar said it was the Irish government's intention to hold a referendum by the summer. Ministers suggested the last option would present difficulties because it would have to be explained why a new option was better than the committee's proposals.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has joined Cabinet colleagues in calling for Ireland's abortion laws to be liberalised in the upcoming referendum later this year, writes Juno McEnroe.

The committee's recommendation dominated the first cabinet meeting of the year today.

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In the absence of a full Cabinet decision, which won't be made until after the Dáil has debated the issue, he wants to focus his work on the recommendations of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment.

Some are concerned about the political fallout if they back the measures. "But then again, perhaps not", Mr Varadkar said.

A referendum on the future of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution is due to be held in May, with Mr Varadkar declining to give his opinion on the debate.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said that he wishes to propose the legislation for the referendum and told told The Ireland Edition of The Times that he supported the recommendations of the committee. So my party, the Fine Gael party, will discuss this at our special parliamentary party meeting next week.

Varadkar said there was "strong consensus" that a referendum be held this year but he declined to say on which side he'll be campaigning.

"I believe it is important now in the context given in the partnership programme for government that we move on towards the next stage".

The committee also called for all pregnant women to be given access to scans between the 18th and 22nd week of the pregnancy.

Government preparing for 12-week abortion limit despite Cabinet doubts