Irish MEPs criticise Liberals' support for abortion


IRISH MEPS in the Alliance of Liberal and Democrats (ALDE) group at the European Parliament have criticised two of their colleagues for supporting a petition asking the EU to make abortion available in Ireland. They have also reiterated that the Lisbon Treaty cannot introduce abortion to Ireland in a move to prevent unwarranted public fears arising from the pro-abortion petition ahead of the October 2nd referendum.

“Either they don’t know what is in the EU treaties or they are engaging in publicity-seeking stupidity,” said Fianna Fáil MEP Brian Crowley yesterday when asked about two Liberal colleagues’ support for the abortion petition.

“The EU can’t put any pressure on Ireland about its abortion laws with or without the Lisbon Treaty. This is a matter for member states,” he said.

The Make Noise For Free Choice campaign was launched by Swedish MP and president of Liberal Women, Birgitta Ohlsson in June and has so far gathered just 3,947 signatures. However, the petition has attracted public support from two of the most prominent female MEPs in the ALDE group, Sarah Ludford from Britain and Sophie in’t Veld from the Netherlands.

The petition, which can be viewed at, says that a “cornerstone of the EU is to work for gender equality and health” and “women who lack the access to free, legal and safe abortions in the EU-countries such as Ireland, Malta and Poland, can no longer be ignored”.

“Nowhere in the world should a woman be forced to use a hanger, eat washing powder or see a quack doctor to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, when safe abortion methods are available . . . the governments of these countries must be put under pressure,” says the petition, which adds that the union should work to make the right to an abortion a “human right”.

The petition says it aims to make use of a “citizens’ initiative” clause contained in the Lisbon Treaty.

This stipulates that if one million signatures can be collected from European citizens on a particular issue, the European Commission must consider proposing European legislation.

“We are therefore starting this citizens’ initiative to make free, legal and safe abortions a human right in the European Union,” says the petition.

This move to link Lisbon with abortion has caused grave concern among the three Fianna Fáil MEPs, who recently joined the Liberals and Independent Marian Harkin, who sits with the ALDE group in the European Parliament.

“I was annoyed about this because the MEPs should have known better. This is likely to cause confusion for the public,” Ms Harkin told The Irish Times yesterday when asked about the two Liberal MEPs’ position.

“She was jolly cross with me,” said Ms Ludford, who added that she had every right to campaign for abortion to be made available all over Europe noting that anti-abortion campaigners often campaigned at EU level.

But she said the petition was wrong to imply that the Lisbon Treaty could force changes in Irish abortion law as this remained a national competence.

“I understand that mischief will be made about this and I want it to be made clear that anything I say should not be linked to the Yes campaign in Ireland,” said Ms Ludford, who is a strong supporter of the Lisbon Treaty.

Pat “the Cope” Gallagher, head of Fianna Fail’s delegation at the parliament, said the commission had no power to legislate in matters relating to abortion and nor did any other EU institution.

He added that the Liberal group had written to Fianna Fáil stating very clearly that it would “fully respect the position of our party on policies that relate to socio-ethical issues”.