TDs to vote against Bill despite party's calls for legislation

Thu, Apr 19, 2012, 01:00

LABOUR PARTY deputies will be expected to vote against a Bill in the Dáil today which seeks to legislate for the “X-case” abortion ruling, despite expressing support for such a move at last week’s party conference.

Following a 1992 Supreme Court ruling – known as the X-case – abortion has been legal in circumstances where there is a substantial risk to the life of the mother.

However, successive governments have not enacted legislation to give full effect to the ruling.

A Private Members’ Bill put forward by Socialist Party TD Clare Daly, along with People Before Profit TD Joan Collins and Independent TD Mick Wallace, seeks to create a legal framework for abortion in Ireland where a woman’s life is at risk.

Ms Daly said the legislation would provide greater clarity and certainty for medical professionals in cases where the life of a pregnant woman is under threat.

“We call on all parties in the Dáil to support this Bill, which will merely implement the 20-year-old ruling of the Supreme Court – a ruling the people of Ireland vindicated in two subsequent referendums,” she said.

“If the parties are not prepared to formally support this Bill, they should at least allow a free vote upon it.”

However, Labour Party TDs will be instructed to vote as part of the Government against the Bill. A spokeswoman said the issue of abortion was a sensitive one and should not be dealt with through a Private Members’ Bill.

At the party’s annual conference last weekend, Labour members supported a motion in favour of legislating to give effect to the X-case ruling. Labour has consistently called for such a move since the 1992 ruling.

However, a spokeswoman said yesterday the party was awaiting the report of an expert group set up by the Government to examine the implications of a ruling on abortion by the European Court of Human Rights two years ago.

This report is expected to be finalised in June.

In this case – known as the A,B and C case – the court found the State had violated the rights of a woman who had cancer and who was forced to travel abroad to get an abortion.

While pro-choice groups say the Government has little option except to introduce clear guidelines or legislation to provide for lawful abortions, pro-life groups say the State is under no such obligation and have called for a fresh referendum on the issue.

The Pro Life Campaign said the Private Members’ Bill would give effect to an “abortion on demand regime” in Ireland if it was passed into law.

The campaign’s spokeswoman Dr Ruth Cullen said the legislation “dishonestly creates the impression that women in Ireland are currently being denied necessary medical treatments in pregnancy because of the absence of abortion here”.

Dr Cullen said: “The fact, however, is that women receive outstanding care when pregnant in this country and Ireland, without abortion, is internationally recognised as one of the safest countries in the world for pregnant women, safer than places like England where abortion is available up to birth.”

However, Independent TD Mick Wallace said legislation – the Medical Treatment (Termination of Pregnancy in Case of Right to Life of Pregnant Woman) Bill – was urgently needed. He said there was no need to wait months for an expert group to report.

“In the meantime women who need life-saving abortions, and their doctors, are in the same invidious legal position as they were 20 years ago,” he said.

“Nor will the European Court of Human Rights be content to see Ireland’s legislators continue to drag their heels. Action is long overdue – and this Bill is a minimum first step.”

PRESENTATION TO TDS: WOMEN HIGHLIGHT LACK OF SERVICES

Four women who travelled abroad for terminations because of fatal foetal abnormalities yesterday met TDs in Leinster House to highlight what they said was the lack of appropriate services in the State.

The women – Jenny McDonald, Ruth Bowie, Amanda Mellet and Arlette Lyons – gave presentations to up to 25 deputies. They told their stories in The Irish Times earlier this week.

“Our interactions with politicians at Leinster House were very positive. We felt that our stories were genuinely listened to by all of those present,” the women said in a joint statement.

“The reason we have publicly communicated our stories is because we don’t want other people to have to encounter the tremendous pain and difficulty that was inflicted on us because of a lack of appropriate services within the Irish State.

“Telling our story has not been easy, but we hope that those politicians who listened to us today will now move to take steps to address the treatment deficit within our healthcare system.

“Undoubtedly, in the future, other women will find themselves in the same situation as we did.”

They also hope to meet the expert group that is studying how to implement a European Court of Human Rights ruling on abortion.