Dáil abortion debate continues

Fri, Dec 7, 2012, 00:00

Fine Gael chairman Charlie Flanagan has called on single men to discuss the issue of abortion with women before they make a final judgement on their position.

The Laois-Offaly TD said he had heard many men make statements on the issue.

“This is primarily a matter for wives, daughters and partners and it is essential that we get this process right in a calm and logical sequence,” he said. “I advise my single male colleagues in this House and beyond to discuss it with women before they make a final judgment on their position.”

Mr Flanagan said they had to address the grey areas to legally protect doctors, where a termination was necessary. “Doctors deserve protection and, more importantly, women deserve protection.”

He was speaking during the ongoing Dáil debate on the report of the expert group on the European Court of Human Rights judgment.

Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell said she wanted what she believed most people wanted, “to protect the lives of women when continuing with a pregnancy would endanger their lives”.

The Dublin South TD said that since health could not be considered in the Government’s response to the judgement, “I want the bar determining where the risk begins set as low as possible. I do not want it set anywhere near when the risk becomes so great that it is irreversible”.

She believed that the issue of abortion was again turning into a needlessly emotive, divisive and contentious debate, because there were central areas of agreement.

It was everyone’s ideal that healthy women should deliver healthy babies, she said. “However, the term ‘pro-life’ is being used as if some of us favour death for children and mothers.”

She said it was “insulting to women generally to be of the attitude that there is a mindless desire among them for abortion on demand. People with that belief could not be more wrong. No one considers abortion a good or highly desirable measure.”

Ms Mitchell said there should “never be a hesitant, uncertain or procrastinating doctor attending pregnant women in this country, in particular in a crisis situation” but the danger would continue to exist if doctors were not provided with absolute legal certainty.

“I am no longer willing to have such deaths laid at my door because we, as a Legislature, have failed to provide such protection. The time is long past for us to deal with the issue in a humane and determined way,” she said.

Government backbencher Michael Creed criticised US secretary of state Hillary Clinton for what he claimed was an “offensive reference” to Ireland’s abortion debate.

The Cork East TD described the matter as a complex issue and “one for the Irish people and their representatives to decide”. He said “for that reason, I was irked by the offensive reference to the issue by the visiting United States secretary of state Mrs Hillary Clinton”.

Mrs Clinton gave a speech in DCU on human rights during her visit to Ireland and spoke about global health programmes and their impact on women.

Mr Creed said Ireland had an “extremely good record in terms of safety in our maternity hospitals for women and this is newsworthy because it is so rare. That is a fact that holds up to international scrutiny.”

He accepted there was a debate “about how those figures are constituted but they hold up to comparison with any country in the developed world, including the United States”.

During her speech on human rights Mrs Clinton said global health programmes had been refocused to ensure women and girls were saved and their health improved.

Health programmes could be imbalanced often in ways that were not obvious, “but the result is women and girls don’t get the care they need when they need it and many die unnecessarily”. She added: “So our starting point must be this: women’s lives matter. And promoting the human rights of women begins with saving the lives of women whenever we can.”

Fine Gael’s John Paul Phelan said “I hold a pro-life position but I believe fundamentally in the aim of the 1983 amendment to the Constitution, namely, the protection of the life of the mother also”.

He said most people who held similar views to his believed the medical council guidelines should be included in legislation, regulation or a combination of both.

A Dáil sitting scheduled for Monday to continue the abortion debate has been cancelled because of insufficient speakers on the day. The debate will continue later next week.