Dáil debate scheduled on Bill providing for abortion
Proposal sponsored by Independent Clare Daly for cases of fatal foetal abnormality
Clare Daly: A Bill moved by the Independent socialist TD for Dublin North last December providing for a referendum on abortion was defeated by 110 votes to 13. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
A Bill providing for abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality will be debated in the Dáil on Friday.
The proposal, sponsored by Independent TD Clare Daly, has been selected for debate in the lottery for legislation which is open to all TDs.
The Protection of Life in Pregnancy (Amendment) (Fatal Foetal Abnormalities) Bill was drafted in 2013 and has been on the order paper since its first reading was accepted. The debate will lead to a vote on the second stage of the Bill next Tuesday.
Fianna Fáil has agreed to allow a free vote on the legislation but it is almost certain to be defeated.
Government chief whip Paul Kehoe said that the whip will be applied by the Coalition parties. He said Attorney General Máire Whelan had advised that the Bill was unconstitutional and would be opposed.
Ms Daly has said other legal experts including a former attorney general disagreed with this view and the only way to resolve the conflict was to introduce legislation and have the Supreme Court adjudicate on it.
A Bill moved by Ms Daly last December providing for a referendum on abortion was defeated by 110 votes to 13.
Jennifer Schweppe, lecturer in constitutional law at the University of Limerick, who helped to write the Daly Bill, described the current legal situation as “cruel” and “stark”.
She said there was no constitutional impediment to the proposed legislation; that it was “declaratory” by “setting out the law as it is”.
She said Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, which guarantees to protect the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn as far as is practicable, applied to the unborn only when it was capable of being born alive. This was not so in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities.
She said the Constitution guaranteed to protect the right to life of the unborn as far as was “practicable”.
“Just because it is possible (to guarantee the unborn’s life to full term) does not make it practicable.”
To compel a woman to carry a fatally abnormal foetus to term was “an exercise in futility” said Ms Schweppe. “The State is under no obligation to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term where there is no prospect of life”.