SF motion on X case 'a reasonable ask'

Tue, Nov 20, 2012, 00:00

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 the party’s motion called to legislation to protect pregnant women when their lives were in danger and to give certainty and protection to doctors.

The Dáil private member’s debate follows the death of 17-weeks pregnant Savita Halappanavar in University College Hospital Galway last month. Her husband Praveen said doctors refused a termination when she was miscarrying because there was still a foetal heartbeat present.

Her death has convulsed the State and provoked global criticism, as an independent inquiry into the controversy suffered a setback with the withdrawal of three members, based at Galway hospital from the inquiry, at the request of Mr Halappanavar.

Pregnant women and the medical profession “are being failed by politics and it is cowardly to allow this situation to persist”. She said 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. “It seems to me that 20 years on there are still those in this Dáil who will not face up to our collective responsibility as legislators to act in the common good.”

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 Kathleen Lynch appealed to Sinn Féin that “calmer heads prevail”. She said “the solution is within our grasp and we can do this properly”.

Ciara Conway (Lab, Waterford) who had threatened to support the Sinn Féin motion defended her party’s commitment over the years to action and said that “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.

“We need to make sure that we take the necessary action to protect the lives of women,’’ he added.

“However, these are extremely complex matters and deserve thoughtful consideration from a clinical and legal perspective.”

Olivia Mitchell (FG) said “we cannot leave doctors in a position where they feel they have to treat a living sentient human being in a way a vet would not treat an animal because there is a lack of legal clarity about how they should act.’’

A Fianna Fáil amendment calls for a fully independent inquiry into Savita Halappanavar’s death and the immediate publication of the expert group’s report.

The party’s health spokesman Billy Kelleher said they could only act 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 was successful.

An amendment from Independent TD Mattie McGrath calls for an inquiry totally independent of the HSE and the Department of Health and no action 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 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.