TDs vote to await experts' abortion report
If Britain was not on its doorstep, Ireland would have had to introduce abortion legislation years ago to avoid women dying in back-street abortions, the Dáil has heard.
Labour TD Robert Dowds said that while he regarded himself as pro-life, he took it to mean that he was pro-life, first and foremost, for the mother.
“If her life is at risk, then the mother should be entitled to whatever treatment she needs, including abortion,” he added.
Mr Dowds was speaking during the Sinn Féin Private Members’ motion calling on the Government to legislate to protect pregnant women when their lives were in danger and to give certainty and protection to doctors.
The Government defeated the Sinn Féin motion on an amendment by 88 votes to 53. Sinn Féin’s Peadar Tóibín, who refused to sign the party’s motion calling for legislation, voted with his party against the Government motion to await the outcome of the expert group’s report.
Former Labour minister of state Róisín Shortall abstained, while former Labour TD Patrick Nulty voted with the Opposition.
Mr Dowds said during the debate “we must, and I stress must, provide legislation to reflect this. And the House has failed to do this for 20 years.”
He was convinced that very few Irish people would insist on a woman who was raped having to bear the child of a rapist.
“What parent or husband would not support a daughter or wife if she was confronted with such an appalling scenario . . . to whatever she felt was for the best?” He said it was first and foremost a women’s issue. “They should lead the discussion. In fact, if it were constitutionally possible, I think the decision should be left entirely in women’s hands.”
United Left Alliance TD Clare Daly welcomed the Government decision to publish the expert group’s report, which she said every citizen would be interested in.
Ms Daly will reintroduce legislation on abortion that was rejected in the Dáil last April with a correction she said Minister for Health James Reilly had recommended. She said the debate had really highlighted how “inappropriate it is to have in our Constitution a clause that equates the life of the unborn with the life of the woman. That is the root of this problem.”
It was inappropriate that women’s health was in the Constitution, she said.
She also supported the call by the family of Savita Halappanavar for her case to be dealt with in the public domain. The debate follows Ms Halappanavar’s death in hospital last month, 17 weeks into her pregnancy.
Her husband Praveen said doctors had refused an abortion when she was miscarrying, because a foetal heartbeat was still present.
Labour TD Ann Phelan said she was not prepared to wait another 20 years for clarity on the issue. “No longer can we deny basic human rights to women in difficulty. We are prepared to legislate as soon as we have all the recommendations before us.” The Carlow-Kilkenny TD said she had voted against Ms Daly’s abortion Bill motion in the absence of information from the expert group.
Tipperary South TD Séamus Healy, who supported the Sinn Féin motion, described the HSE inquiry as a complete shambles. He described the health authority as an arrogant organisation, out of touch with reality. He said this Dáil must legislate without delay for the X case. He said there was no need to wait for the outcome of the inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar.