Labour TD 'mistakenly' votes against Government on abortion
Clare TD Michael McNamara will not lose party whip
The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 was drawn up following the death of Savita Halappanavar in a Galway hospital last October after being denied an abortion as she miscarried. Previously doctors acted under guidance from the Irish Medical Council and law based on a Supreme Court ruling from 1992, known as the X case, that allowed abortion if there was a threat to the mother’s life, including suicide. The case was taken by a 14-year-old rape victim who became pregnant and was refused permission to travel for an abortion.
Following the vote, the Bill will be considered by the Seanad and then - provided there are no demands for further amendments - will be brought to President Michael D Higgins to sign off on it and enshrine it into law. The Government expects the law to be enacted before the Dail breaks for summer on July 18th.
Speaking during the debate ahead of the vote, Ms Creighton argued against the legislation, which aims to enshrine a women’s right to an abortion if there is a substantial risk to her life, including allowing terminations to avoid suicide.
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She asked Dr Reilly to amend the Bill. “It is actually seeking to legitimise and to entrench and enshrine this error in law, the law of the land, that I consider to be deeply worrying and something I certainly cannot be part of,” she said. The laws “would change the culture of this country and they would change how we deal with vulnerable women”.
She told the Dail she cannot “support a clause which is essentially built on sand”.
She was speaking about the section of the abortion legislation dealing with suicide, on which TDs submitted 38 amendments. Her comments are the clearest signal to date that she will vote against the Bill.
The Dublin South East TD said people spoke of people “cowering behind the party whip” to vote in line with party policy on the issue. “What about people cowering behind the Supreme Court?” she asked.
Hitting out at the “flawed” legislation, she said the underlying cause “repeated as a mantra” was that the State had to legislate for suicide because the Supreme Court had ruled on the X case.
She said the Supreme Court did not order the Oireachtas to legislate. She said the Supreme Court had no capacity or authority to direct the Oireachtas to legislate and there was a “whole litany of cases” on this issue.
Later, Ms Mulherin said she would support the Bill, although she felt the legislation could be drafted in a more prescriptive way to give a fair balance between the legal rights of the mother and the unborn child. She said she had written to Dr Reilly setting out her concerns.
“I am very disappointed that there is very little accommodation of the legitimate concerns expressed by myself and many others, not least in this chamber, in the Government amendments published,’’ she added. I am now faced with either supporting the Bill or being booted out of the party, my party. And I am not going to allow myself to be booted out, so I am supporting this legislation.’’
Mr Flanagan, who has lost the party whip since his opposition to the Bill at second stage, supported Ms Creighton’s amendments to provide a clinical pathway. He added that there would be little or no opposition to the Bill if the section dealing with suicidal ideation were removed. The X case decision was a flawed judgement, he added.
Last night, six pro-choice TDs - Clare Daly, Joan Collins, Richard Boyd Barrett, Mick Wallace, Joe Higgins and Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan - said they would oppose the Bill. “I couldn’t, in all conscience, vote for this regressive bill,” Mr Boyd Barrett said. “The bill criminalises women and doctors, does not provide for abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities or rape and is so restrictive in the case of suicide that women and girls will continue to travel abroad.”
A group of TDs, including Mr Boyd Barrett, were the first to propose a series of 10 amendments which were discussed up until 1.30pm.
Mr Boyd Barrett, who said he wanted the Bill to ensure a woman’s life would never again be put at risk, claimed it had become more about the internal politics of Fine Gael.
Mr Higgins said the legislation was “cowardly” as serious issues such as fatal foetal abnormalitiesare “completely ignored”. His amendments aimed to bring the focus on the “health of the pregnant woman”, he said.
Ms Murphy said the Bill was the absolute “bare minimum” and warned there would be “further tragedies”.
There had been a concerted effort to enforce a Catholic viewpoint on the issue which was out of kilter with society, Ms Daly said, while Mr Wallace said there will not be an decrease in the number of women travelling to England for abortions as a result of the Bill.
Speaking against the amendments proposed by the grouping of pro-choice TDs were Independents Mattie McGrath and Michael Healy-Rae. “Unborn life is unborn life and should be regarded as so,” Mr McGrath said. The death of Savita Halappanavar was a case of “neglect” which had been “hijacked”.
Mr Healy-Rae said he was in the Dail “with a heavy heart”.
Mr Timmins said the legislation would not have made one difference to Ms Halappanavar and for members of Government to purport that it would is “disingenuous”.