Hearings allay TDs' fears on suicide threat

Sat, Jan 12, 2013, 00:00

A small number of Fine Gael TDs and Senators who had concerns about the suicide threat being included as a ground for lawful abortion have indicated that many of those fears have been allayed following this week’s health committee hearings.

Changed position

A number of TDs with whom The Irish Times spoke yesterday, all of whom would have anti-abortion or “pro-life” views, said they supported the legislative proposals and had changed their position to the extent that they understood why suicide threat or ideation could be included in the legislation.

Others have said that while strongly influenced by the evidence given by medical and legal experts, they would have to be convinced the legislation and guidelines were so strongly and rigidly framed that they could “not open the floodgates to abortion on demand”, as one TD put it.

Meath East TD Regina Doherty said the questions and doubts she had, particularly around the suicide issue, had been largely assuaged. Saying she would reserve full judgment until seeing the text of the Bill, she nonetheless said she was “99 per cent ready” to give support to what is being proposed by Government.

On the issue of suicide, she believed the evidence from medical experts had been compelling, to the effect that, ultimately, it was preferable to save one life rather than let both die.

She also said the three-day hearing had been a genuinely engaging and illuminating exercise.

Her colleague Mary Mitchell O’Connor said the committee would need a lot of time to debate and think through all the different viewpoints that had been expressed. She said there was no doubt legislation and guidelines would become the law of the land and agreed suicide would remain the stumbling block.

Right solution

But indicating a societal bias towards a moderate Ireland, that had been evident during the hearings, she said: “There’s a problem and there’s a solution and [our task is to get] the right solution.”

However, two other Fine Gael parliamentarians, who did not wish to be named, said separately their strong views on the issue had not been changed by the evidence, indicating they were still concerned about the inclusion of suicide as a ground for abortion.