Bacik urges swift move on abortion legislation
Expressing the hope that the Government would take the legislative approach in dealing with the report of the expert group on abortion, Seanad deputy leader Ivana Bacik (Lab) said the suicide risk could not be left out. “To say that we could legislate for a bit of the X case is like saying you could be a little bit pregnant. It’s simply not possible.
“I think it’s pretty clear now that it is incumbent on the Government to move swiftly into legislation.”
Sharp exchanges across the floor led Seanad leader Maurice Cummins (FG) to wonder if there could be a calm and informed debate in the chamber on the report, which he has pencilled in for the week after next.
Observing that the announced Government approach was particularly challenging for some in the Fine Gael parliamentary party, Jim Walsh (FF) said his advice to them was to follow the great Irish parliamentarian Edmund Burke, and not to “abrogate” their consciences to people like Alan Shatter, James Reilly, Ivana Bacik, Susan O’Keeffe or Eamon Gilmore.
Ms Bacik said she very much welcomed the commitment to a Cabinet decision before the Christmas Dáil recess. “I think we have to be conscious of how high feelings are running since the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar.”
Mr Walsh said he thought they needed to bear in mind the report’s note of caution about identification of suicide risk. A study involving the three major maternity hospitals in Dublin spanning 31 years up to 2011 had shown that of 686,000 births, two women had died from what was termed maternal suicide, and that there had been extraneous factors in both cases.
The problem with legislating for the X case, he had been told by lawyers, was that the inclusion of suicide would open the door to a liberal abortion regime. “So that’s the demarcation between Senator Bacik’s and Senator O’Keeffe’s abortion on demand position and the position of the pro-life people who don’t want abortion on demand but want to protect the life of the mother.”
There was a need for a debate on this issue before the event rather than afterwards.
Ms O’Keeffe said that for a man who was seeking a debate, Mr Walsh was starting from a very strange place, throwing around all kinds of nonsense.
Mr Walsh called on her to admit that she was pro-choice. Ms O’Keeffe responded that she was not prepared to be hectored and lied about.