The cabinet is to hold a discussion in the Dáil today regarding the bill to repeal the 8th amendment to the constitution.
The bill, put forward by the Anti-Austerity Alliance People Before Profit group, seeks to permanently repeal the 8th amendment, article 40.3.3 of which prohibits abortion under Irish law.
The issue of repealing the 8th amendment is currently being debated in the Citizen’s Assembly, though they are not expected to reach a conclusion until June next year.
Today’s talks between Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance will aim to reach some agreement on terms to reject the bill, an issue which has already seen great division within the two coalition parties this year.
While the Citizen’s Assembly are ultimately charged with the decision of whether the amendment should be repealed or not, Taoiseach Enda Kenny will attempt to use today’s discussion to unify his two-party government with a compromising stance on abortion law.
The last time the government voted on the issue of repealing the 8th back in July, three members of the Independent Alliance- Shane Ross, Finian McGrath, and John Halligan- voted for a repeal, opposing the stance of their government colleagues. The Citizen’s Assembly was formed by Mr Kenny following this vote.
The 8th amendment, which came into effect in 1983 after a 67% majority of the public voted in its favour, protects the right to life of both the mother and the unborn, with the former taking priority wherever pregnancy poses a substantial risk to the mother’s life.
Fully deleting the amendment would effectively mean that the right to life of the unborn would not be protected, and that abortion would be available to any woman who chose to have one.
It is this issue that has caused opposition to a repeal from members not only of Fine Gael, but also the Independent Alliance. TD Mattie McGrath, when asked about his position on repealing the 8th, said that a repeal “ would remove the last vestiges of constitutional protection for the life of the unborn child.”
Bríd Smith, of the AAA-PBP, has urged members of the Independent Alliance to stand by their beliefs and not to make a compromise with Fine Gael. The AAA-PBP have led calls for a referendum on the issue.
In a survey conducted amongst members of the public earlier this year, 49% supported a repeal. Only 19% were not in favour of rescinding the amendment, while 32% remained unsure.
Last year, 3,451 Irish women travelled to the UK to undergo legal abortions.
Appearing on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Ms Smith today said: “We don’t know what a Citizens’ Assembly, which after all is only 99 citizens as against the potential three million that have a right to vote in this country, we don’t know what they’re going to come back with.”
Health Minister Simon Harris said he believed the Government will be “unified” after today’s meeting, and expressed his certainty that the Government would “put forward a reasoned amendment outlining why [they] are not in a position to accept the bill.”