Abortion legislation incompatible with human rights values, says Binchy

Law prescribes deaths of innocents, committee told

The Government was proposing, for the first time since Independence, to pass a law prescribing the death of innocent human beings, Prof William Binchy, legal adviser to the anti-abortion campaign, told the committee.

“It does so in the face of the evidence of psychiatrists to the joint committee last January, as well as the overwhelming evidence of international research,’’ he added.

“It falsely claims that it is bound to take this step because of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, whereas, in fact, the judgment merely requires clarity in our law.’’

He said the legislation was incompatible with the core values of human rights which respected and protected the equal dignity and worth of every human being.


Prof Binchy said the intention in the suicide provision was to terminate, not protect, the life of the unborn child.

Former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness said she saw herself as expressing the middle-ground view in the debate.

“Despite the emphatic, not to say virulent, nature of some of the argumentation on both sides, I remain convinced that very many Irish people will approve the Government’s action in finally bringing forward legislation in accordance with the Constitution in this difficult area,’’ she said.

Ms McGuinness said that, legally, the Bill’s heads were well and carefully drafted so as to provide for termination of pregnancy where that was constitutionally permitted and to clarify the position of the medical personnel involved.

She said it was perhaps unfortunate that a situation where the foetus was clearly unviable had not been included. At least the situation where the foetus was dead before birth might have been dealt with by a change in the definition of “unborn’’.

Dr Maria Cahill, of the UCC law faculty, said the Constitution was uncompromising in its defence of human life. This was evidenced by the fact that it prohibited the direct and intentional taking of not only innocent life, but also even of guilty life by forbidding the introduction of the death penalty in the strongest terms.

It would be very difficult, she added, not to conclude that the suicide provision was simply unconstitutional.

Frank Callanan SC said there had been a great deal of talk about the fact that there was no psychiatrist involved in the X case. But there was a very experienced child psychologist whose evidence was of a very cogent kind.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times