Healy-Rae says his views on abortion will never change

Calls for all information to be accurate as TDs differ on foetal disability

A pro-choice rally organised by Strike4Repeal  outside the Dáil on Wednesday. Photograph: Dave Meehan

A pro-choice rally organised by Strike4Repeal outside the Dáil on Wednesday. Photograph: Dave Meehan


Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae has told the Dáil his opposition to abortion will never change.

The first anti-abortion speaker in the debate on the report of the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment, he said nobody wanted to return to the era of the Kerry babies controversy or an Ireland where young women were locked away in mental institutions because they had become pregnant.

“I just don’t agree with abortion and I just don’t think it’s right and nothing will ever, ever change me from that view,” he said.

“If a person becomes pregnant there are services, there is support, there is back-up. Nobody is judging anybody now like it was in the past.”

Mr Healy-Rae also expressed concern about people with Down syndrome and believed that “if we go down this road, are we going to have a situation that people will play God with these people’s lives, that if people are imperfect they are not going to be born.

“If you’re not perfect and you’re inside the womb you have the same right to come into this world as people who are perfect,” the Kerry TD said.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith had earlier told the Minister for Health Simon Harris that “if you give out information please make sure it is accurate”.

She said “we are told by Fianna Fáil TDs that the floodgates will open” on abortions in the case of a Down syndrome pregnancy but, she added, a test could not be taken before 12 weeks of gestation and it would cost €400.

The Oireachtas committee has recommended abortion be allowed up to 12 weeks.

Ms Smith said those who thought that if they retained the Eighth Amendment they were protecting something precious were wrong. “All you’re protecting is the dark, dark history of this country.”

She said they did not have to go back to the time of the Kerry Babies to know that “we are living in the dark ages”.

Series of controversies

Ms Smith listed a series of controversies around pregnancy and abortion, including one last year when a young pregnant woman deemed at risk of suicide was sectioned under the Mental Health Act when she sought an abortion.

In 2014, the State kept a clinically dead pregnant women alive for eight weeks against the wishes of her family because a foetal heartbeat could be detected.

She cited the cases of Savita Halappanavar, Ms X, Ms B, Ms C, Ms D, “and we go on”.

Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton referred to the numbers of women taking abortion pills ordered online and said it was impossible for gardaí to block every port to stop pills being imported into the State.

Independent TD Thomas Pringle said he was disappointed that the provision of abortion would not go beyond 12 weeks.

“Once you start introducing restrictions inevitably some will fall through the cracks,” he said. He told the Dáil that “right now only men in Ireland enjoy bodily autonomy”.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly said in March 1983 a woman called Sheila Hodgers died after her cancer treatment was stopped when she became pregnant. She said this was before the abortion referendum when the State knew what it would be doing.

Ms Connolly said the most ironic thing was that the most liberal countries had the lowest abortion rates.