Keep to the facts and they say to vote ‘Yes’

Keep facts vote Yes Simon Coveney

By Simon Coveney TD Ireland’s Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

Next week Ireland will make a pivotal decision as a society. It will come after years of debates and campaigning, after unforeseen tragedies and after people examine their sincerely-held beliefs. We will decide if we keep the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution and the status quo when it comes to how women are treated, or if we vote for change.

I am voting “Yes”, I am voting for change because I fundamentally believe Irish women and couples deserve better than our state has been providing. My support for a “Yes” and my support for the law that will follow if the people vote yes, were not foregone conclusions. I have examined the evidence and confronted myself with the reality facing Irish women and I decided I could not stay silent or vote “No”.

My route to this decision was not straightforward but my conviction that voting “Yes” is the right thing to do is without doubt.

However, many people in Ireland are still undecided and have genuinely-held doubts. On the one hand they know the status quo is not protecting women but they are still not certain that voting “Yes” is the right thing to do.

Keep facts vote Yes Simon Coveney

I have found the canvass in this referendum one of the deepest experiences of my career. The conversations are genuine, human and show a great commitment to our society.

As a member of cabinet and as Tánaiste, I want to be clear that the attorney-general and other legal experts have advised that without doubt we cannot legislate for fatal foetal abnormalities or abortions in the case of rape under the Eighth Amendment. It is also an undeniable fact that thousands of Irish women have abortions in the UK each year and thousands of other women undergo abortions unsupervised with abortion pills.

I have examined the evidence and confronted myself with the reality facing Irish women and I decided I could not stay silent or vote “No”.

My route to this decision was not straightforward but my conviction that voting “Yes” is the right thing to do is without doubt.

We have trusted UK politicians to regulate for abortion on Irish women or allowed unregulated abortion through the advances of the internet.

The Oireachtas all-party recommendation of termination, with no restriction as to reason, dominated coverage and comment at the start of this year but much more serious detail has been added since then. It is extremely unfortunate that this has not received the same amount of coverage and comment.

The law the government is proposing if you vote “Yes” does not give unrestricted access to abortion. The system we propose is built on the principle of “informed consent” and would require a medical professional to enter into an honest and caring process with a woman who is requesting an abortion in which alternatives and optional counselling supports are discussed.

A 72-hour pause period for a woman who opts for a termination will ensure that she is certain of her decision.

“Look at the facts, not the posters.”

There will be no abortion clinics in Ireland and late-term abortion will be banned. A viable baby will not be aborted in Ireland and there will not be an option of abortion in the case of disabilities. I believe anyone who enters into this system and opts to terminate at the end would have done so in the UK anyway.

Crucially, however, it gives the state an intervention in which to help vulnerable women, to impartially lay out the alternatives to abortion, to ensure that nobody dies using pills bought online, to end the exportation of women to the UK as problems, to protect women’s health and to end once and for all the inhumane journeys of those suffering fatal foetal abnormalities.

In the last week of this campaign we need to speak to those who are undecided. The most important thing though is to not speak at them but to listen.

When I confronted myself with the facts, I realised I could only vote “yes” on 25 May. I hope you reach the same conclusion.

This piece was originally published in the Irish edition of The Times earlier this week.


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