Coalition partners at odds on abortion

Sharp divisions between FG and Labour backbenchers over controversial Bill

 Fine Gael TD  Brian Walsh: sharply criticised Coalition partner Labour as he warned the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill would herald a fundamental shift in the culture of care in Irish hospitals.

Fine Gael TD Brian Walsh: sharply criticised Coalition partner Labour as he warned the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill would herald a fundamental shift in the culture of care in Irish hospitals.

 


Sharp divisions have emerged between Fine Gael and Labour backbenchers during the Dáil debate on the controversial abortion legislation.

Fine Gael TD Brian Walsh sharply criticised Coalition partner Labour as he warned the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill would herald a fundamental shift in the culture of care in Irish hospitals.

He asked what impact the legislation would have on the culture of healthcare, “if one day a doctor is striving to save the lives of women and babies and the next they are gowning up to perform a procedure that will result in the intentional death of an unborn child”.

The Galway West TD, who opposes the legislation, said it was supported by members of the Dáil who had a professed desire to see more liberal abortion facilities.


‘Stepping stone’
“It is seen as a stepping stone by those members, some of whom we know sit amongst us on this site of the House. Two Labour backbenchers clearly expressed the view that it was a stepping stone to a more liberal abortion regime in the future.”

Earlier Labour TD Aodhán Ó Riordáin said Minister for Health James Reilly should look at the legislation as the start of a debate for a new referendum to remove article 40.3.3 of the Constitution.

Mr Ó Riordáin said issues such as rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality could not be dealt with in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill. The legislation could only go as far as the Constitution permitted, he said.

“I implore the Minister for Health to regard this Bill as the beginning of a discussion on a new constitutional amendment which would remove article 40.3.3 in order to enable women to protect their health during pregnancy and deal with issues of rape and incest, as well as the sensitive issue of fatal foetal abnormality,” the Dublin North-Central TD said.


‘Dickensian’
Fine Gael backbencher Olivia Mitchell described as “Dickensian” and “downright dangerous” the penalty in the Bill of a 14-year jail term for women who procured an abortion or had a self-induced one.

“Such a harsh sentence would certainly deter women from seeking medical help where there are complications post-termination”.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the Bill “does not change the fundamentals of the law as it stands today. As much as possible in such a divisive area it adheres to the available medical advice. Vitally it includes a mechanism to ensure the law is not misused.”


Conscience
Fianna Fáil is allowing each Oireachtas member to vote in line with their conscience on the legislation.

Opponents of the Bill have repeatedly said the suicide provision in the legislation was similar to laws in other countries “which did open the floodgates”.

He said, however, what “they are failing to acknowledge is that Ireland is unique in having an explicit constitutional provision establishing the right life of the unborn”.