Simon Harris clashes with anti-abortion TD during Dáil debate
‘Why do women in crisis have to come last? They have come last in this country for far too long’
Under Independent TD Carol Nolan’s proposal, no public money would be used to fund abortion services except where there is a risk to the life of the pregnant woman.
Minister for Health Simon Harris has criticised attempts to change the proposed abortion law so that taxpayers’ money would not be used to enable a woman to have access to abortion services.
Independent TD Carol Nolan, formerly of Sinn Féin, sought to introduce the new provision to the proposed abortion legislation saying that “free abortions will mean more abortions”.
Under Ms Nolan’s proposal, no public money would be used to fund abortion services except where there is a risk to the life of the pregnant woman.
“This is not healthcare, real healthcare does not have a victim. Hundreds of thousands of women also voted No, and those women like myself are taxpayers with a conscience,” she said.
Mr Harris said that there is a “direct correlation” between the words “free” and “safe”.
“We are trying to make abortion care free, safe and legal. Are we really suggesting that different women should get different healthcare?” he said.
Mr Harris said he found it “frustrating” to hear TDs say that it is only when other issues in the health service are addressed that women’s healthcare can be addressed.
“Why do women in crisis have to come last? They have come last in this country for far too long,” he said.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said he believed Ms Nolan’s proposal was “awful.”
“I find it amazing and shocking that, whatever the Deputy’s feelings might be, what she’s asking us to agree to is a service that would only be available to those who pay for it. She is asking for a two-tier system, and that is just awful. She is suggesting that a financial barrier should be put in the way.”
Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers said the move was “sinister”.
“That is control of women by financial means. The suggestion that we would control a woman’s access because she cannot afford it simply to achieve what you believe, I just think that is so wrong. I think you are exploiting the impoverished and the vulnerable. It is a perverse way of enforcing a personal view,” Ms Chambers said.
“It is anti-women, anti-choice and seeking to exploit the very real inequalities we have in our society.”
Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher also criticised the proposals.
“What you are proposing is that we now insert into law a means-test to ensure that it is only people who can afford an abortion who access those services. We are bringing the discourse to a level that I’d hoped we wouldn’t reach. We would be enshrining that some women are second-class in terms of access to healthcare,” he said.
Independent TD Peadar Tóibín, formerly of Sinn Féin, said he had had people come up to him in the street expressing surprise that the service would be State-funded. He also suggested that funding abortion services would mean less money for other parts of the health service.
“If you take €12 million out of one budget to pay for this, it will mean that there are certain operations that won’t happen.”
Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler, who described herself as being “strongly pro-life”, said she could not support the proposal. She said this was because she could not support a situation whereby a woman in distress who needed an abortion could not get access to it for cost reasons.
“We would probably end up down a road where there are more illegal abortions which is what we are trying to get away from,” she said.