Call for free vote on abortion

 

A Fine Gael backbencher has called for a free Dáil vote on the Government’s proposals on abortion to be announced tomorrow.

Eoghan Murphy, who represents Dublin South East, said TDs should be allowed to vote based on what they actually thought, and to defend that vote, rather than being forced into a position they did not agree with.

“By enforcing the whip on this issue, there is a risk that we could possibly end up weakening the decision that we ultimately take,” he added.

Mr Murphy, who was speaking during a Dáil debate on abortion today, said he did not believe that the State’s responsibility to unborn life to be superior to the responsibility to a woman’s life, her mental health or her health.

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said it made no sense branding women as “duplicitous and untrustworthy” and likely to claim suicidal thoughts to seek an abortion.

“Since when has it become permissible to make such bald and dismissive statements about women and people presenting with serious mental health problems?” she asked.

Young Fine Gael also called for a free vote on the issue.

President of the organisation, Patrick Molloy, said the Government "should allow members of the national legislature vote according to their own personal opinion on matters of conscience, rather than being obliged to toe the party line".

"YFG has long called for the relaxation of the whip system in Irish politics to promote debate and reform our political system. In recent weeks, we have seen a number of deputies disciplined due to taking an alternative stance to their party on different bills. We believe that continuation of the whip system on votes of conscience would be a de-stabilising influence on our national politics, which is to be avoided at all costs in the present political climate," he said.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said this afternoon the Cabinet will decide what course to follow on the abortion issue tomorrow.

Speaking at a conference on women’s health organised by the Women’s Human Rights Alliance in Dublin today, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to health Anand Grover said abortion should be legal if a pregnancy is adversely impacting on a woman’s health, and not just her life.

Mr Grover argued that the life of a mother is much more important than the right of the unborn, adding that countries that criminalise abortion are discriminating against women.

On RTÉ’s The Week in Politics last night, Minister of State Lucinda Creighton said she had concerns about the possibility of allowing the threat of suicide to be a basis for an abortion.

Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín has been removed from the chairmanship of the Oireachtas Committee on Investigations, Oversight and Petitions for failing to vote with his party on the proposed abortion legislation.

Mr Tóibín failed to turn up to the Dáil for a vote last month in which his party voted in favour proposed X case legislation put forward by United Left Alliance TD Clare Daly.

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