John Bruton says Government abortion legislation contrary to Constitution
Former taoiseach and Fine Gael leader John Bruton has created a political headache for his successor, Enda Kenny, by declaring the Government’s planned abortion legislation is contrary to the Constitution.
Mr Bruton claims it is “not consistent with the plain words of the Constitution” to include the threat of suicide in the terms of the legislation that will permit abortion where a woman’s life is at risk.
The Coalition has committed to introducing legislation to give effect to the Supreme Court judgment in the X case which found that a threat of suicide constituted a threat to a mother’s life.
Minister for Health James Reilly is due to bring the draft heads of the Bill on the subject to the Cabinet shortly.
Some Fine Gael TDs, including Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton, have expressed opposition to the inclusion of the suicide threat in the legislation.
However, Mr Kenny has committed himself to legislating for the X case judgment and has insisted that the party whip will be applied to get the Bill through the Oireachtas.
Since the public hearings at the Oireachtas health committee in early January, tensions in Fine Gael appeared to have eased but Mr Bruton’s intervention is likely to open up fresh divisions in the party.
Writing in today’s Irish Times, Mr Bruton makes the case that article 40.3.3 of the Irish Constitution gave a right to life to an unborn child. He says that in the X case in 1992, the Supreme Court had decided, to the surprise of many, that this article could be construed as allowing for the life of the unborn to be ended if the mother was believed to be suicidal.
He urges the members of the Oireachtas, in considering forthcoming legislation, to read the words in the Constitution, and the X case judgment, and decide for themselves what they can, or must, do in respecting the Constitution.
He says the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the C case as well as the issues raised in the Savita Halappanavar case could be dealt with in a way consistent with article 40.