Abortion legislation must await report

Thu, Apr 19, 2012, 01:00

THE GOVERNMENT has opposed legislation implementing the X case ruling to provide limited access to abortion because it is waiting for an expert group to report.

Minister for Health James Reilly said it would not make sense to accept the legislation proposed by Socialist Party TD Clare Daly in advance of the report, expected “in the next couple of months”.

Dr Reilly noted comments by Independent TD Mick Wallace that no action had been taken on the issue by six successive governments. He told the Dáil “this will not be the seventh government”.

Dr Reilly said the expert group he had appointed to deal with the issue in the wake of the European Court of Human Rights ruling knew the very complex issues had to be dealt with expeditiously, and that “people can be sure that Ireland will live up to its obligations in this regard”. He wanted to “meet our obligations to the EU, but more importantly to our citizens”.

They would take the correct action based on the best advice available “to ensure that no woman’s life is ever put in danger. We will do this based on scientific and personal information, but above all to inform the process and outcome with compassion and respect for the women who have to face and endure the reality of the current situation”.

Moving the legislation, Ms Daly said the debate was not about whether to allow abortion in Ireland. “Irish abortion exists,’’ she said. “It just does not take place in Ireland. And that is simply not acceptable in 2012.’’ She said women were not prepared to sit back and be silent any longer.

Those women who had gone public on their terminations had given a clear signal that people were not prepared to endure the pretence and hypocrisy in Ireland when thousands of women had to leave the country every year, she added. These were women who had to access life-saving medical treatment, who had become pregnant as a result of rape, whose foetuses would not survive a birth, those for whom another child would put their families into poverty, women who felt they were too young or too old to have children, or those who had lost their jobs.

Women made the decision for a number of reasons – none of them easy and all of which were valid, she said. “We absolutely reject the idea that these decisions are ever made lightly as a lifestyle choice,’’ Ms Daly added. “We know this because the people making the decisions are us – loving mothers, daughters, partners, wives, sisters, friends and so on who should expect support and assistance from this State, not isolation and condemnation.” The right to control what happened to one’s own body was a fundamental human right, Ms Daly continued.

People Before Profit TD Joan Collins said it was very important to dispel the myth that the legislation was opening the door to abortion on demand. The sense of grief experienced by women who had gone to England for abortions should not be acceptable to any right-minded Irish person, she added.

Mr Wallace said the Bill provided a legislative basis for the legal termination of pregnancies in very limited circumstances where it was deemed necessary to prevent women’s deaths. “We know it is not enough – we know it is only a start, but it is a start,’’ he added. “Six successive governments have refused to make a start.’’

Minister of State at the Department of Health Kathleen Lynch said the Government wanted to ensure “pregnant women in Ireland whose lives are at risk can access appropriate medical treatment in Ireland, including lawful termination of pregnancy”.