Ministers seek free vote on fatal foetal abnormalities Bill

Abortion legislation for debate in Dáil next week will be first test of Government cohesion

Pro-choice  and anti-abortion demonstrators  in Dublin, July 2015. File photograph:  Nick Bradshaw

Pro-choice and anti-abortion demonstrators in Dublin, July 2015. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

A number of Ministers are seeking a free vote on a Bill allowing for abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

Members of the Independent Alliance have urged Taoiseach Enda Kenny to allow them to support legislation proposed by Independent TD Mick Wallace.

The legislation, which will be debated in the Dáil next week, will be the first test of Government cohesion.

It is understood the alliance, which includes Minister for Transport Shane Ross and Minister of State at the Department of Health Finian McGrath, met on Tuesday and agreed that a free vote was needed.

Minister of State at the Department of Jobs John Halligan confirmed he would back the Bill. “Providing the Bill is constitutional, I will be voting in favour of it,” he said. “Since I was elected I have called for a change in legislation to allow for terminations in these tragic cases. My position has not changed. I believe there should be a free vote.”

Good faith

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said she would await the Attorney General’s advice before making her decision on whether to support the Bill.

Mr Wallace’s Bill would allow for an abortion to take place in cases of fatal foetal abnormality. Under the measure, two suitably qualified medical professionals – a perinatologist and obstetrician – would be asked to certify, in good faith, if the foetus was incompatible with life.

Fianna Fáil will allow a free vote while Sinn Féin, Labour, the Social Democrats, Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit and the Green Party are expected to support the Bill.

The programme for government states Ministers and Ministers of State carry obligations of collegiate decision-making. It says Cabinet decisions made in response to Private Members’ motions will be collectively decided and will bind all officer holders.

A Government spokesman said there was an expectation the Independent Ministers would adhere to this pledge. He said the Taoiseach had made it clear a free vote would only apply after a citizens’ convention had reported and he did not anticipate that position to change.