FF Senator praises Government for introducing abortion Bill
Mary White criticises her own party and thanks the Government for its courage
Mary White: ‘I thank the Government for having the courage to bring this Bill forward and I am confident that I represent the position of the majority of the Irish people.’ Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times
Mary White (FF) criticised her own party and praised the Government when she spoke in favour of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill in the Seanad last night.
She said the duty of legislators was to uphold the Constitution and there was a separation of church and State in Ireland. Serious issues had been neglected by previous governments, “including those of my own Fianna Fáil party’’, for many years, she added.
“I thank the Government for having the courage to bring this Bill forward and I am confident that I represent the position of the majority of the Irish people.
“How doctors, faced with life-or-death decisions, and in the absence of explanatory legislation, interpreted the constitutional provision that abortion could take place only when there was a real and substantial threat to the life of the mother, was ignored.
“This law before us, thankfully, sets out procedures and processes to guide doctors and protect them legally.’’
In the 1992 X case, said Ms White, the Supreme Court held that a threat to commit suicide constituted a real and substantial risk to the life of the pregnant mother. “The Supreme Court is the interpreter of our Constitution, so its finding in the X case remains the constitutional position which we as legislators are duty bound to respect.’’ She said legislators could not have an a la carte approach to accepting the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.
She said the House must respect the will of the people demonstrated in two referendums.
Prof John Crown (Ind) asked if those opposed to the Bill were really saying that they were fighting to protect women and unborn children from the malfeasance of the woman coming in to lie that she was suicidal and the malfeasance and incompetence of the three doctors who would collude with her in the wilful destruction of her unborn child for some other reason entirely.
Ivana Bacik (Lab) said it would be unconstitutional to delete the suicide provision because it would fail to implement the X case judgment. While abortion was no treatment for suicide, because there was no treatment, it might sometimes be necessary to prevent the risk of suicide of a woman or a girl.
Rónán Mullen (Ind) said the Bill should be altered from containing a “subjective, good- faith test’’ to a more “objective’’ test, requiring medical personnel to have regard to the relevant clinical evidence.
He said the opposition to the Bill was not based on evidence but the lack of evidence that abortion was an appropriate treatment or response to a situation where there was a risk to life. It was known that abortion did not in any way improve a mental health outcome for women and was associated with a low to moderate risk of negative mental health, he added.
Mr Mullen said it was the first time he had heard the precautionary principle being invoked in favour of the taking of life when the entire medical tradition was based on the principle of first doing no harm.
John Gilroy (Lab) said it was agreed in the debate that abortion was sometimes necessary. “All we disagree about is the circumstances in which it is necessary.’’ He said a medical provision, known as abortion, was being provided in the rarest of circumstances and in the most challenging of cases.