Call for fatal foetal abnormalities amendment to Bill

Change would allow for terminations where foetus has been diagnosed with fatal abnormality

Independent John Halligan who is among the TDs calling for an  amendment to the abortion Bill to allow for  terminations where a foetus has been diagnosed with fatal abnormality.  Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Independent John Halligan who is among the TDs calling for an amendment to the abortion Bill to allow for terminations where a foetus has been diagnosed with fatal abnormality. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Wed, Jun 26, 2013, 14:56

TDs advocating the inclusion of cases of fatal foetal abnormalities in proposed abortion legislation made a last-minute appeal to the Government to change the Bill today.

An amendment to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill is being proposed by Independent TD John Halligan, People Before Profit deputy Richard Boyd Barrett and others.

It seeks to allow for terminations in cases where a foetus has been diagnosed with fatal foetal abnormality. The amendment was drafted by lecturer in law at the University of Limerick Jennifer Schweppe and others.

Members of the advocacy group Terminations for Medical Reasons (TFMR) attended a press event in Dublin this morning and spoke about their experiences.

Minister of State for Primary Care Alex White has previously said it was “regrettable” that the possibility of allowing for abortions in cases of fatal foetal abnormality could not be considered under the planned legislation.

However, Ms Schweppe argued the inclusion of the proposed amendment would not be unconstitutional although she did not think a test case would take place in this area.

“When a woman gets a diagnosis like this the last thing she’s going to do is go to her solicitor and try and change the law. She’s going to book a flight,” she said.

Mr Halligan said a number of Labour TDs and some in Fine Gael privately supported his efforts to amend the planned legislation to include an amendment relating to fatal foetal abnormalities.

However, he said he had to be upfront with member of TFMR about their chances of success. “I would be dishonest to suggest there would be some transformation in the Government and they would include this amendment,” he said.

Mr Boyd Barrett said it was “devastating” for couples to receive an “incompatible with life” diagnosis.

“It is utterly appalling that women who have to endure that heartbreak, also face the stigma that the treatment they were forced to seek abroad is a criminal offence in this country,” he said.

Also in attendance were: People Before Profit TD Joan Collins, Socialist deputy Joe Higgins; Séamus Healy, a member of the United Left Alliance (ULA) who represents the Unemployed Action Group in Tipperary South;newly-Independent TD Patrick Nulty, who left the Labour Party last week and Independents Catherine Murphy and Thomas Pringle.

ULA member Clare Daly is also supportive of the legislation, although she was not present. Sitting in the audience were former minister of state Róisín Shortall, Fianna Fail Senator Averil Power and Independent Senator Fiach Mac Conghail.