Two Fine Gael senators vote against whip on abortion
Government wins first vote on Protection of Life Bill in Seanad by 41 to 15
Fianna Fáil Senator Terry Leyden, who said he would be voting against the “blatant” abortion Bill. “No amendment could change my vote unless section nine (the suicide clause) was removed completely,” he said. Fianna Fáil Senator Thomas Byrne said he was opposing the Bill over the absence of time limits. The Bill was “not giving clarity required”, he said. Fianna Fáil senators Denis Donovan and Diarmuid Wilson said they would not be able to support the Bill because of the suicide clause.
However Fianna Fáil Senator Darragh O’Brien said he would not inhibit the passage of the Bill at second stage but raised concerns about the suicide clause which he hoped to see the Government clarify or amend at committee stage.
Several Government senators spoke in favour of the Bill. Fine Gael Senator Cáit Keane said she would not be “whipped” on the abortion Bill but said she would vote for the legislation. “I am supporting this Bill of my own free will,” she said.
Labour Senator Jimmy Harte said he had received “terrible abuse” on the issue in Donegal. He was supporting the legislation for the “future health” of his and everyone else’s daughters. The issue had been “dodged” by Fianna Fáil in the past because it was “always looking down the road to see what the Church would say”, he said.
If Ireland is its people rather than a piece of land then abortion is a part of life here, Labour Senator Marie Moloney said. She said she was supporting the Bill but would never support “abortion on demand”.
Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone said she would be voting “with her conscience” in favour of the Bill. She found people protesting outside politicians’ homes to be “disturbing” and the anti-abortion side was “often undermined by the actions of some”.
Independent Senator Mary-Ann O’Brien raised concern about the lack of time limits in the legislation. “I find it extraordinary that there are no limits....which week is it that the life becomes viable?” she asked.
Fine Gael Senator Eamonn Coughlan said he would support the legislation. “Laws against abortion do not stop abortion they just make it more dangerous” he said. He found it “most disturbing” to receive threats walking in and out of Leinster House, phone calls at home and “mid-twisting” emails on the issue.
Independent Senator Jillian Van Turnhout said separating physical and mental health in the public debate was a “retrograde step”. She said the section of the Bill containing the threat of a 14-year criminal conviction was an “onerous sanction”.