Sinn Féin to settle party policy on abortion at ardfheis

Leader Gerry Adams says his personal view is that it should be a woman’s right to choose

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams:  “We are very much in support of the repeal of the eighth amendment in the Constitution, we want to see that gone.” Photograph: Mark Marlow/PA Wire

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams: “We are very much in support of the repeal of the eighth amendment in the Constitution, we want to see that gone.” Photograph: Mark Marlow/PA Wire

 

Sinn Féin’s executive body is to table a motion at the party ardfheis later this month recommitting to a policy of allowing abortion in the case of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality ahead of next year’s referendum.

It is expected to be one of a number of motions on abortion at the event in Dublin’s RDS, and whatever is decided will settle party policy ahead of the referendum.

Party leader Gerry Adams said over the weekend his personal view is that it should be a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion. It is understood to be the first time he has made his own personal views known publicly.

Sinn Féin policy is already to allow for abortion in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality, and the motion from the ard chomhairle to the ardfheis will, if passed, settle the issue ahead of the referendum, expected to take place by next summer.

A number of other abortion motions are also expected to come before the ardfheis, such as some calling for “free, safe and legal” abortion to requests for party members, including TDs, to be allowed a vote of conscience on the issue.

Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín, who is against abortion, says his cumann, the Doyle/French cumann from Navan, Co Meath, will be tabling a motion calling for a free vote.

Party policy

Mr Tóibín previously lost the Sinn Féin whip for six months after voting against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill in 2014, contrary to party policy.

Similar motions calling for free votes have been rejected by Sinn Féin members at previous ardfheiseanna. This year’s ardfheis takes place on the weekend of November 17th and 18th.

Sinn Féin has faced criticism from pro-choice activists for supporting a rights-based agenda in the Stormont talks but only extending its support for abortion reform in the cases or rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities, which leads to views it only supports the rights of “worthy women”.

Responding to this suggestion at the Belfast launch of his new book Never Give Up on Saturday, Mr Adams said: “Our party has been very clear on this issue for a very, very long time. I think our party position reflects wider society.

I very clearly have my own position on all of these issues but I am not going to have the opportunity of needing to have an abortion, why should I decide?

“We are very much in support of the repeal of the amendment in the constitution, the repeal of the eighth amendment, we want to see that gone.

“It should never have been in the constitution in the first place and it should be replaced by legislation which reflects our party position. My personal position is that it is up to women.

‘Wider society’

“Women have to have the right in all of these situations but as a party member I can only support the position which the party has worked out over a very, very long time, which as I say, I think reflects wider society.”

He confirmed from a personal point of view he believes it should be a woman’s right to choose.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I am not in a position to decide, to make judgments, and shouldn’t be in a position to make judgments.

“I very clearly have my own position on all of these issues but I am not going to have the opportunity of needing to have an abortion, why should I decide?

“I am a lawmaker, I have to make the law in terms of satisfying the rights of women and also of the doctors.

“The doctors and the medical staff should have their very, very clear supremacy if you like, on all of these issues.”

A special Oireachtas Committee is currently holding hearings on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution – which provides for an equal right to life to the mother and the unborn – and is expected to propose a wording for the referendum by Christmas.