Howlin responds to David Begg

Issued 21 May 2018

Responding to the remarks of former general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, David Begg, Labour Party Leader Brendan Howlin has said that only repealing the 8th amendment can allow for terminations in the cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities, that this issue was considered in detail by the Oireachtas committee, and that amending the article to do so has also been described by legal experts as 'unworkable'.

Deputy Howlin said:
"David Begg is somebody I admire enormously and whose views I respect, but with whom I differ on the referendum to remove the 8th Amendment.

"David indicates that his position on this issue is not an absolutist one and that he would support change in the case of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities.

"However the one thing we are clear on is that to make that possible we need to repeal the 8th amendment. He refers to a possible legislative provision around 12 weeks as arbitrary though that proposal arises directly from the need to deal with has been termed by many on the No side as hard cases.

"That issue was teased out at some length at the Oireachtas Committee reflecting the concerns of how to avoid retraumatising women in these situations, and the fact that thousands of Irish women are accessing the abortion pill up to 12 weeks without medical supervision. The Constitution is not the place to deal with complex medical issues, and the trauma faced by those who seek a termination in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities. Only legislation can conclusively deal with these areas to ensure women are treated with care and compassion at home in Ireland.

"Two former attorneys general and a former Supreme Court Judge have also definitively said that such an amendment to Article 40.3.3 would be unworkable.

"I agree with David that we should invest more in supports for women with crisis pregnancies. I believe in doing that, but also in having a supportive environment that deals, in Ireland, with the reality of Irish abortions already taking place overseas. That is more likely to reduce the incidence over time rather than constitutional provisions that cannot work."