Two Fine Gael senators vote against whip on abortion
Government wins first vote on Protection of Life Bill in Seanad by 41 to 15
Fine Gael Senator Fidelma Healy Eames said ’with a heavy heart’ and aware of the impact on her future that she would not support the legislation.
There were no surprises in the first vote in the Seanad on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill when two Fine Gael senators Fidelma Healy-Eames and Paul Bradford defied the party whip on the legislation.
Michael Mullins (FG) who it was reported had reservations about the legislation, voted with the Government.
The Government won the first vote by 41 to 15 rejecting Ms Healy-Eames’ ’reasoned amendment’. Taoiseach’s nominee Mary Ann O’Brien also voted against the Government as did ten of Fianna Fáil’s 14 senators, and Independents Feargal Quinn and Rónán Mullen.
Independent Senator David Norris was absent for the vote as was former member of the Labour parliamentary party James Heffernan.
The four Fianna Fáil senators who voted with the Government were Averil Power, Mary White, Darragh O’Brien and Ned O’Sullivan.
The three Sinn Féin Senators voted with the Government.
In a second vote to allow the Bill to go to committee stage tomorrow the Government won by 42 votes to 14, when Mr Bradford supported the Government to allow the committee stage vote go ahead.
During today’s debate Fine Gael Senator Fidelma Healy Eames who said “with a heavy heart” and aware of the impact on her future, that she would not support the legislation. “I don’t want to lose the Fine Gael party whip,” she said.
However, she wanted to exercise her “human right to make a conscientious decision” and it saddened her “greatly” that Fine Gael had broken its promise on abortion.
She said if she thought it would save a life of a woman like Savita Halappanavar, she would support it. “It is disgraceful the way Savita’s death has been hijacked to get abortion over the line,” she said.
Fine Gael Senator Paul Bradford said the Bill went against the fabric of the party. Fine Gael Senator Michael Mullins, whose support was uncertain, said he was taking a “huge leap of faith” and supporting the Bill because he trusted women not to try and circumvent legislation and trusted medical profession to provide appropriate medical treatment .
Minister for Health Dr James Reilly told the Seanad that suicide was “rare” in pregnancy but when it did happen it was a “tragedy”. Speaking ahead of the vote he said concerns about criminalisation of women “reflects the State’s constitutional obligation” and does not create a new offence but “brings it in line with current parameters”. He did not believe there would be a “young girl would ever find herself in jail” on the matter.
He said a leaflet issued by Fine Gael before the last election stated that abortion would not be legalised but this Bill was “clarifying” the law not legalising abortion.
Among other Senators speaking against the Bill was Fianna Fáil Senator Paschal Mooney. He was not supporting the legislation because section nine (the suicide clause) was the “rubicon” he “could not cross”. ”I cannot vote for legislation that will result in the “deliberate killing of the unborn” he said. Moving into the area of the mind was a “minefield”, he said.