Coalition divisions on abortion come to fore

Tue, Jan 22, 2013, 00:00

Divisions in the Coalition over plans to legislate for abortion in limited circumstances came to the fore yesterday as TDs publicly differed on the merits of the Government decision.

Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton yesterday reiterated her views that she had grave reservations about the risk of suicide being included in the legislation as grounds for a lawful termination.

Ms Creighton, on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, spoke of the difficulty of drafting legislation to include the threat of suicide as a substantial risk to the life of a pregnant woman without opening the floodgates. She indicated, however, that she would not give a final opinion until the wording of the legislation was produced.

Her comments were later criticised by the vice-chairwoman of the Oireachtas health committee, Ciara Conway, who described them as “disappointing, disingenuous and unhelpful”.

The Waterford Labour TD said the Government had given an “unequivocal commitment” to legislate for the X case, the 1992 Supreme Court decision that ruled the threat of self-destruction constituted a substantial risk to the life of a pregnant woman.

Describing the proposed law as “Savita’s Law” (after the late Savita Halappanavar), Ms Conway said: “It is disappointing to hear comments from a Minister of State seeking to question the legitimacy of including the risk of suicide in dealing with this sensitive issue.

“This muddying of the waters from a Minister of State is unhelpful and disingenuous. The Government’s position and intentions on this matter are clear.”

Kenny criticised

It came as Taoiseach Enda Kenny was criticised by prominent anti-abortion campaigner Senator Rónán Mullen for stating that some in the anti-abortion lobby had portrayed him as “worse than King Herod” for having brought forward the legislation.

Mr Mullen accused Mr Kenny of a “regrettable demonising of the pro-life movement”. The Independent Senator said that 25,000 people had taken part in the public demonstration at the weekend.

“Instead of reflecting carefully on this major expression of support for protecting the unborn, the Taoiseach has adopted a passive-aggressive strategy to undermine people who oppose his dangerous proposal,” he said.

Senior Minister Joan Burton came to Mr Kenny’s defence yesterday, saying anti-abortion campaigners who castigated people in biblical terms were not helping.

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