Baby in womb ‘weakest’ member of society, says Senator Paul Coghlan

Colleague Gabrielle McFadden highlights exodus of 165,000 women for abortion

The baby in the womb is the tiniest and weakest member of society and should feel it is a safe place, Fine Gael Senator Paul Coghlan has said.

“They have nobody to defend them, save us as legislators, and I believe we should not fail them,’’ he added.

He was speaking during the Seanad debate on Wednesday evening on the Oireachtas committee report on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.

Mr Coghlan said the most basic and fundamental right was the right to life.


“Any deliberate planned or wilful extinguishment of life is killing,’’ he added.

“Surely we do not want to go down the road of Britain where abortion has been legislated for and, where to date, approximately nine million children in the womb have been aborted.’’

Gabrielle McFadden (Fine Gael) said 165,000 Irish women had travelled abroad for an abortion since the amendment was passed in 1983.

“So, regardless of the eighth amendment, 20 Irish women a day are travelling abroad for terminations or availing of a pill ordered online, which is taken illegally and unsafely,’’ she said.

The number involved represented twice the capacity of Croke Park, she added.

She said decisions on such matters should be made by a woman in consultation with her doctor and partner.

Ms McFadden said as a modern secular republic, it was time for Ireland to be mature enough to take responsibility for the health and wellbeing of Irish women and girls.

She said the people should be allowed to decide for themselves in a referendum, adding she refused to be categorised as anti-life.

Paul Gavan (Sinn Féin) said he had opposed the 1983 referendum.

“It was a horrible time,’’ he said. It was a time when many people, and particularly women, felt suffocated by an all-encompassing campaign that relied on bright papal colours and slogans.

Ronan Mullen (Independent) said Ireland had a law that guaranteed the right to life of the mother in all circumstances.

Tragic cases should not be used as propaganda, he added.

Dr James Reilly (Fine Gael) urged people to take off the "theological, philosophical and ideological hat''.

He said people should bring the abortion issue home to their own door, their daughter, sister, partner, granddaughter, niece, very best friend.

“Do you want them to have to leave this country at a time when they are most vulnerable and without support?,’’ he asked.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

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