Lack of free vote 'would weaken decision' on abortion, says FG TD
Debate:Fine Gael backbencher Eoghan Murphy has called for a free Dáil vote on any Government proposals on abortion.
He told yesterday’s Dáil debate that TDs should be allowed to vote based on what they actually thought, and to defend that vote, rather than being forced into a position they did not agree with.
“By enforcing the whip on this issue, there is a risk that we could possibly end up weakening the decision that we ultimately take,’’ he added. “Who will be served by such an outcome?’’
Mr Murphy, who represents Dublin South East, said such a system existed in older parliaments and he believed that those parliamentarians and political parties to be stronger for it.
“I believe that the State has a responsibility to provide for the lawful termination of pregnancy in certain circumstances and some of these circumstances would require a change to the Constitution,’’ he added.
Michael Conaghan (Labour, Dublin South Central) said he believed that another referendum on abortion might be needed to provide further clarity. He said the legal position as it stood limited the choices a doctor had and, as a result, endangered women. This was dramatically demonstrated by the case of Savita Halappanavar, he added.
“Although this tragic case is still under investigation it seems to me that it was preventable; it should not have happened,’’ he added.
“An option that could have saved her life was closed off to the doctors because of the legal uncertainty.’’ He said that to “atone for this tragedy’’ legislation must be introduced.
Derek Nolan (Lab, Galway West) said the “downright viciousness of those at the extremes of the pro-life lobby’’ could not be underestimated.
During the last general election, illegal posters had been put up all around his constituency, stating Labour would introduce abortion on demand. Leaflets handed out at churches, one of which was given to his father, claimed he was advocating a “pro-choice abortion-on-demand service’’.
‘Rigidity of law’
Peter Mathews (FG, Dublin South) said hard cases, such as those considered in the courts, did not necessarily make good law. “Sometimes, to have the principles of conduct within society, to determine what is valuable and important to uphold for the citizens of the country, can be best delivered with a framework of principles rather than the exactitude or rigidity of a law,’’ he added.
Mr Mathews said it could be, “given some of the valuable and expert opinions of the medical profession, that the Supreme Court, with its good intention, stepped outside its competency to particularise a condition in which someone was psychiatrically unwell, and that this posed a real or substantial threat to the life’’.
Regina Doherty (FG, Meath East) said that, “at the end of the process, I want to find myself in a situation where I can support legislation that will provide for the best medical practice and interventions.’’