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Dr Michael Harty . Photograph by John Kelly.

Harty favours access to abortion in certain circumstances

DEPUTY Michael Harty has confirmed that he favours allowing abortion in certain circumstances
but not in the latter stages of pregnancy.

In an interview with The Clare Champion, Dr Harty said as much as possible needs to be done around education and provision of contraception to ensure that women are not left in what he called an “unenviable position”.

He said, “I am male and I will never have to consider having an abortion and I think that’s an important factor, when males
are speaking about this issue.

“We don’t know what the wording of the referendum is going to be so it’s difficult to comment on how one will vote, when one doesn’t know the wording of what legislation is proposed to define the circumstances under which termination of pregnancy is going to be allowed. We have to wait for that, before we can make a definitive decision on how
to vote.”

While Dr Harty favours allowing terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, he does not feel that non-fatal foetal abnormalities should result in abortion. “In relation to non-fatal foetal conditions, which are correctable or manageable with medication and services, I feel that the services should be put in place to make sure that the child, when born, gets all the medical attention it requires. People should not have to fight to get services for a child who has a condition that is correctable or which can be looked after by services.

“For instance, Down Syndrome – I think that would not be a grounds for somebody having a termination of pregnancy,” he states.

Although Dr Harty favours allowing terminations in cases of rape or incest or when a mother’s life is in danger, he says allowing or prohibiting abortion on demand is the really difficult area for legislators and voters. “It moves into more difficult areas that may be covered by legislation in the referendum. When there is serious risk to the health of the mother, I think serious consideration would need to be given to giving a woman an option in relation to that.
“The real grey areas are, should termination be available on socio-economic grounds or with no restriction, as to reason.
“That’s a very difficult area. I’m not sure how far the referendum and the associated legislation would go to cover those
areas,” he said.

Abortion is a very divisive topic and Dr Harty acknowledged that providing a referendum that satisfies most people, will not be an easy task. “How the referendum can be worded and how legislation can be drawn up to define the circumstances under which termination can take place is going to be difficult.

“If there was to be no restriction as to reason and no restriction in relation to termination of pregnancy, those legal constraints are not necessary. But I think there will have to be legal definitions on what circumstances a termination is allowed to take place.

“I think there will be a liberalisation of the existing law, but how liberal that becomes as you descend from the very definite conditions to the grey area of maybe no reason or no restriction as to reason or socio-economic reasons or the health of the mother, as opposed to the risk to the life of the mother. You are now going into less certain areas,” he said.

While many of the voices in the upcoming debate will belong to people with very entrenched pro-life or pro-choice views, he said many people are less adamant. “I think there’s a huge groundswell of opinion in between and how you can find a legislative process that will satisfy that middle ground, that’s the challenge,”
Dr Harty concluded.

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