FF leader critical of tactics used in abortion debate

Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 00:00

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has sharply criticised intimidatory tactics by some involved in the abortion debate.

Mr Martins said there were many people on different sides who operated “with an absolute certainty as to how they believe the issue should be handled”. This often led them to “dismiss the sincerity of those who do not share their certainty”.

And there was a small minority “which takes quite an extreme approach – a fact well known to many deputies and ministers over the years who have experienced intimidatory tactics directed against them in their constituencies”.

He did not believe in the provision of general access to abortion in the way it was available in many other countries. He did not see this as “in any way a conservative or outdated view”. He added that pregnant women should “have no less protection for their life, and it should be the duty of the medical profession to ensure that their lives are protected”.

The Supreme Court ruled this principle was reflected in Irish law but the issue was whether it was reflected in a way to give certainty to doctors and patients and the European Court of Human Rights ruled that it had not. “Public opinion has moved . . . but no one can say that it is clear.”

Earlier, Minister for Health James Reilly, who opened the 20-hour debate on abortion reiterated the Coalition’s “firm commitment to implement the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the A, B and C v Ireland case and bring the required legal clarity to the issue of lawful abortion in Ireland.”

But he said “that does not mean abortion on demand”.

He described abortion as “doubtless one of the most divisive issues in Irish society . . . We must protect the life of the pregnant mother and yet vindicate the right of the unborn child.” He said the Government had to clarify what was available by way of treatment to the women of Ireland and “clarify what is legal for the professionals who must provide that care.”

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said it would be useful if the authors of the expert group report were available in January to address the Oireachtas health committee’s hearings on the issue.

He said Sinn Féin believed it would have been preferable if the expert group had been allowed to make recommendations, “so we would not have to read between the lines to see what options the group may favour. It would be useful if the authors of the report were available to address the Joint Committee on Health and Children in the New Year and to answer questions.”

He said women like Savita Halappanavar, Ms C or Ms X “could have been my mother, wife, sister, aunt or any of my woman friends. It is time for legislation to be enacted that will protect the rights of these women, as decided by the Supreme Court in 1992.” The debate continues today.