Sinn Féin abortion motion 'reasonable'
Sinn Féin’s motion for action on the issue of abortion was a “very reasonable ask” to deal with a system that has “fudged, prevaricated and failed to act in 20 years”, the Dáil has heard.
The party’s deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald, said Sinn Féin’s motion called for legislation to protect pregnant women when their lives were in danger and to give certainty and protection to doctors.
The Dáil Private Members’ debate follows the death of 17-weeks pregnant Savita Halappanavar in University Hospital Galway last month. Her husband, Praveen, said doctors refused a termination when she was miscarrying because a foetal heartbeat was still present.
Her death has convulsed the State and prompted global criticism. Three members of the inquiry into the death, who were based at the Galway hospital, were stood down yesterday by the HSE.
Pregnant women ‘failed’
Pregnant women and the medical profession “are being failed by politics and it is cowardly to allow this situation to persist”, said Ms McDonald. She added that opposing viewpoints of “pro-life” and pro-choice were often pitched in adversarial debate but the “motion does not come down on either side of that broader debate”.
Ms McDonald said they were asking that “that which is already lawful and constitutional be defined and guided by legislation”.
She criticised amendments by the Government and Fianna Fáil as falling far short of any concrete commitment to legislation.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said that while he personally was against abortion he was not in the Dáil to legislate for himself.
His party colleague Peadar Tóibín, who refused to sign the party’s motion, did not attend the debate.
Minister of State at the Department of Health Kathleen Lynch appealed to Sinn Féin for “calmer heads” to prevail. Ciara Conway (Labour, Waterford) who had threatened to support the Sinn Féin motion, defended her party’s commitment over the years to action and said “never before has the inhumanity of our abortion laws been so stark”. She said legislators had colluded in making conditions unbearable over the past 20 years.
Minister for Health James Reilly reiterated his commitment to take action to deal with a long overdue responsibility.
Call for independent inquiry
A Fianna Fáil amendment calls for a fully independent inquiry into Ms Halappanavar’s death and the immediate publication of the expert group’s report.
The party’s health spokesman, Billy Kelleher, said they could act only in the context of what was stated in article 43.3 and interpreted by the Supreme Court in the X case.
He said efforts were made over the years to deal with the issue but none has been successful. An amendment from Independent TD Mattie McGrath calls for an inquiry independent of the Health Service Executive and the Department of Health and for no action to be taken until its findings are available.
The Government’s counter-motion acknowledges the complexity and sensitivity of the issues involved and supports the Minister for Health’s decision to bring the expert group report to Government next Tuesday and his recommendation that it be published immediately.
It agrees that the report should be discussed by the Oireachtas over the coming weeks, with arrangements made at the earliest opportunity.