Fine Gael’s Timmins to oppose abortion Bill over suicide clause
Minister for Education says days of dominant Catholic Church dictating governent policy are over
Fine Gael TD Billy Timmins said today will not support the Government’s legislation on abortion.
The Wicklow TD is the third deputy in his party to publicly declare his opposition to the legislation, joining Dublin South TD Peter Mathews and Galway West TD Brian Walsh.
Mr Timmins said he could not support the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill while the provision for suicide remained in the legislation.
He cited the concerns of medical professions and listed the names of 12 gynaecologists expressing their opposition. He said “almost to a man and a woman they are totally opposed to section 9 of the Bill”, which provides for a termination where a woman is suicidal.
It is the first time he has publicly declared his opposition. Mr Timmins said he hoped the Minister for Health James Reilly would remove the section on suicide.
He quoted evidence by Master of the Rotunda hospital Dr Sam Coulter Smith to the Oireachtas hearings on abortion, who described this as an extraordinarily rare incident of about one in 500,000. He said there was no evidence to show it was a treatment for suidical ideation or intent.
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar said a third referendum deleting suicide as a grounds for abortion would also have to include other issues.
He said he did not believe it would be possible to vote again on the issue without asking questions on allowing terminations on the grounds of rape, alleged rape, incest, the health of the mother, or in the case of a foetus incompatible with life. “People who are pro-life in this House, or outside of this House, who are calling for referendums, should be careful about what they wished for because they do not know, for example, how big a pandora’s box they may open.”
Mr Varadkar appealed to his Fine Gael colleagues thinking about voting against the Bill to reflect on the issue. “I would not like to see Fine Gael, my party, lose anyone from our ranks over legislation which I do not believe will substantially change what is happening now in Ireland relating to abortion.’’
Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn said the legislation will give women “access to the rights they are entitled to by the Constitution”.
He said successive governments had dodged the issue for more than 20 years. “I am proud as a Labour TD, as a social democrat, as a feminist and as a father to be at last speaking on this Bill,” he told the House. “This Bill, when enacted, will still not be compulsory. People who abhor abortion in any form whatsoever, will not be compelled to avail of its provisions.”
He said the Constitution did not allow them to go beyond what the Bill proposed. “But that is no reason why it should not be supported.”
Mr Quinn said the cases of the three women who went to the European Court of Human Rights were “incredibly sad and damning, damning indictments” of the failure to legislate for the X case following the Supreme Court ruling in 1992.
“For too long, our democracy has been cowed into fear and submission by those vested interests that continuously pressurise politicians to not legislate for the constitutional rights of pregnant women to have their lives protected in a medical emergency,” he said.
He welcomed the fact the Dail was dealing with the issue not on strictly party lines but as legislators with one common goal, namely “to ensure the constitutional rights of women in Ireland are upheld and vindicated”.