Abortion legislation meets resistance within Fine Gael
Cabinet signs off on Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill as publication awaited
Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaks to reporters in Dublin after the Government agreed the wording of the abortion legislation. It is expected that the Bill will be published this evening. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
Arthur Beesley, Political News Editor
The Government’s abortion legislation met immediate resistance wtihin the Fine Gael parliamentary party tonight, with five TDs and Senators questioning the scope the content of the newly-agreed Bill.
Hours after the Cabinet signed off on the long-awaited legislation, TDs Terence Flanagan, Michelle Mulherin and Peter Matthews and Senators Paul Bradford and Fidelma Healy expressed concern about the new law when the parliamentary party met.
While Taoiseach Enda Kenny did not attend the meeting, Minister for Health James Reilly provided a briefing on the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill. Although some changes have been made to original scheme, TDs present at the meeting said it was clear that these would not be sufficient to appease the main dissenters.
The exchanges at the meeting, which broke up shortly before 9pm, suggest Mr Kenny still faces the prospect of a small revolt against the legislation. he is adamant there will be no free vote, meaning dissenters would be expelled from the parliamentary party.
With publication of the legislation imminent tonight, there had been some anticipation in Government circles that new review measures will give the Minister for Health the right to suspend services under the law would provide some comfort to some of the naysayers.
Each of the main elements of the scheme remain intact, including provisions in line with the X ruling of the Supreme Court to allow abortion when the mother’s life is threatened due to suicide risk.
There will be no “sunset clause” providing for the possible repeal or recasting of the law at later date.
It is expected services under the Act will be available at a wider range of hospitals and a wider group of psychiatrists will have the right to participate in patient reviews under the legislation.