Fears over 'floodgates' voiced to committee
Fears that the Government’s plan to proceed with abortion legislation would open “floodgates” were voiced by TDs and Senators at the second day of Oireachtas health committee hearings yesterday.
It has become clear as the hearings progress that the responsibility of legislating for abortion in limited circumstances is weighing heavily on the shoulders of many of the current crop of legislators.
Whether the contributions of legal experts added to the sum of knowledge or not is debatable. Unlike the fresh statistics provided by the medical experts on Tuesday, nothing particularly new in terms of solid facts was provided by the lawyers yesterday.
Nevertheless, a number of TDs and Senators grasped the opportunity to ask probing technical questions, while others simply reiterated questions they had asked of other witnesses.
Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell-O’Connor told the legal experts who gave evidence constituents were expressing concern legislating would open “floodgates” to widespread abortion.
Former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness said it did not seem to her that the kind of legislation being proposed could open any floodgates, but if legislators were worried about it, then it was up to the Oireachtas to set up a “difficult gateway”.
Prof William Binchy of Trinity College Dublin, regarded as being on the other end of the ideological spectrum, had pro-life TDs and Senators nodding as he warned of a change in culture. “Most other countries which have changed their laws on abortion have found that further extensions follow as the full implications of the change in underlying values becomes apparent,” he said.
McGuinness and Binchy are both veterans of many referendum campaigns and their appearance together yesterday was an exemplary demonstration of how two people who hold opposing views on a subject can debate without rancour.
Repeated appeals to entertain the views of the middle ground, as well as those certain of their position on the “pro-life” and “pro-choice” spectrum, were heard yesterday.
McGuinness urged TDs and Senators not to be too affected by the “bullying approach” adopted by extreme elements on both sides of the debate.
Barrister and former doctor Simon Mills earlier suggested that dividing the people into “pro-life” and “pro-choice” was a simplistic analysis. In a comment reminiscent of former British prime minister Tony Blair’s call for a “third way”, Mills argued the majority view was in fact somewhere between these two extremes.