Abortion legislation would 'confirm restrictive regime'
Legislation will do no more than confirm and codify arguably the most restrictive laws in the developed world on the termination of pregnancy, Minister of State for Health Alex White has told the Dáil.
“Doctors need to know that in the exercise of their discretion within the law, that they have the protection of the law,’’ he added.
Mr White said the expert group report was very clear in disposing of the suggestion that the issue could be dealt with simply by guidelines. Legislation was required.
He said he shared the view of Minister for Justice Alan Shatter that a case of foetal abnormality, with no hope of survival, should, “in all humanity’’, be grounds for the availability of a termination. However, that was not an issue before the House in the current debate.
He was speaking during the resumed debate on a Private Member’s motion, moved by Clare Daly of the United Left Alliance, providing for legislation arising from the Supreme Court judgement in the X case.
The Government defeated the Bill by 101 votes to 27 with the support of Fianna Fáil. Sinn Fein’s Peadar Toibin who opposes abortion legislation, did not attend.
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the inertia and negligence of successive governments on the issue must be ended now.
"The X case ruling, and the legislation that must arise from it, is not a formula for a liberal abortion regime," she added.
“It is not a prescription for what is termed abortion on demand." Independent TD Mick Wallace said Ireland’s ban on abortion "is a clear indication of the State’s interference" with a woman’s sexual and reproductive health, her right to health and dignity, to control her own body and her right to choose.
We had a responsibility to ensure that "all our people have a right to human dignity" and the Bill should be viewed as an interim measure, he said.
Labour TD Aodhán Ó Riordáin said his party, which promised to legislate for the X case, had no difficulty with the abuse, vulgar letters and campaign disruption it received “when we know that what we want is to protect women, to vindicate their constitutional rights”.
Hitting out at some anti-abortion campaigners, he said “how dare you call yourselves pro-life if you would let a situation persist that endangers women’s lives rather than introduce legislation which the Supreme court and Irish people have demanded”.
Minister for Health Dr James Reilly said some people felt the Government was moving too quickly to address the issue. “May I respectfully suggest that the people of Ireland have waited long enough for their politicians to do what is right and necessary.’’
Dr Reilly said it was also important that the House debate the expert group’s report fully and he expected 20 hours of Dail debate.
Independent TD Catherine Murphy highlighted the lack of urgency in dealing with the issue. She said the troika comes to Ireland, “snaps its fingers” and legislation is produced very quickly. Yet on this issue there had been significant delays.
Independent John Halligan said if the timeframe was a problem “let’s sit through the Christmas holidays, deal with this, get this legislation through the Dáil and be done with it. We are as we speak putting more women’s lives at risks.”
He said there had been a rise in internet-ordered abortion pills being seized by customs. “How tragic and appalling that women are reduced to this. We should hang our heads in shame.” He said they risked excessive blood loss, womb infection, and death.
Independent TD Mattie McGrath said the 20-year-old X case judgment was a “very poor basis for abortion law” and “totally disregards the equal right to life of the unborn child”.