John Bruton says abortion is inconsistent with State’s philosophy

Former taoiseach claims the trauma of rape victims is not as bad as killing the unborn

Former taoiseach John Bruton has said it is inconsistent that the State will intervene to protect a one-month-old baby from abuse but would allow abortion.  Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Former taoiseach John Bruton has said it is inconsistent that the State will intervene to protect a one-month-old baby from abuse but would allow abortion. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

 

Former taoiseach John Bruton has said it is inconsistent that the State will intervene to protect a one-month-old baby from abuse but would allow abortion.

Speaking ahead of Friday’s referendum on whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits abortion, Mr Bruton told RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke show that he trusts Irish women and he also trusts the Irish people to uphold the human rights of the unborn.

Mr Bruton said he felt the Constitution could be amended in another way on the issue, but the Government had decided not to take that option.

He added: “I think the [Eighth] Amendment should stay the way it is.”

He said it was going too far to allow abortion without restriction up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy and on the grounds of mental health up to six months.

“That is the ending of a little Irish life, a little Irish boy or girl.”

Under the Government’s plans in the event of a vote to repeal, terminations would be accessible without restriction within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

A woman would seek a termination from a medical practitioner, who would have a legal obligation to discuss the woman’s options with her.

A three-day waiting period would then be enforced. After that, the woman could have an abortion if she still intended to terminate the pregnancy.

‘Too vague’

Mr Bruton said this 72-hour rule could be waived and that the term “at risk” was too vague when it came to women seeking terminations past 12 weeks. “It doesn’t have to be a big risk to the life of the mother or serious harm to the mother. No psychiatrists will be involved, it is up to GPs.

“The Government had other options. They could have gone for a more restrictive regime.

“I cannot understand why they came up with something so liberal.”

Asked about the trauma of rape victims, who may consequently seek abortions, Mr Bruton said traumatising someone was awful, but it was not as awful as killing somebody.

“There’s no coming back from abortion. There can be some recovery from a trauma.”

He said the majority who become pregnant through rape and have the option of an abortion choose not to proceed with the procedure.

Preventing free speech was awful, he acknowledged, as was physical assault, but he said that the ending of a life was on a “different level” as after that no rights could be exercised.

On the issue of fatal foetal abnormality, he said that while it was very difficult to imagine what families go through in such cases, he had heard of cases where the pregnancy had continued and the family had appreciated the time they had had with their baby.

“Maybe it is better to allow things to take the natural course.”

Medical mistakes

He also said that mistakes can be made and there were situations where families had been given a fatal foetal diagnosis and then the baby turned out to be fine and lived a normal life.

“We should be cautious. We should apply the precautionary principle – when in doubt, allow life.”

Mr Burton also acknowledged that there could be an element of hypocrisy in allowing women to travel to Britain for abortions.

“We are a sovereign country, we are entitled to make our own laws. We are not obliged to take on the UK’s laws.”

He described the term “floodgates” as pejorative, but said he felt that if abortion was freely available there would be far more abortions “than if they had to travel”.

He said lives were being saved because abortion was not available in Ireland. People who might have contemplated abortion but did not have one were then happy to keep their baby when they saw it.

Having a law that gives protection to the unborn in the Constitution is entirely consistent with the general philosophy of the Irish people, he said.

“We want to ensure that a baby has the freedom to live.”

Equal right to life

The Eighth Amendment, also known as Article 40.3.3, inserted into the Constitution in a referendum in 1983, provides that the State “acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right”.

In the Dáil on March 9th, Minister for Health Simon Harris said the law as it stands “permits termination only in situations where a woman will otherwise die”.

Mr Harris said that contrary to “some assertions which are being made, such provisions [the proposed legislation in the event of a repeal vote in the referendum] would not make Ireland an outlier internationally.

“But I accept they represent a quantum leap from our position on the spectrum today where we have one of the most restrictive regimes. The proposed legislation is not without restriction.”

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