Senator appeals for end to graphic abortion descriptions

Labour’s Marie Moloney calls for stop to 'absolutely disgraceful' language

Language used during the Seanad abortion legislation debate has been described as “absolutely disgraceful”.

Labour Senator Marie Moloney made an appeal to the Cathaoirleach to "stop this kind of talking here. There is no need for it".

She was referring to the descriptions used by senators during a discussion on an amendment calling for an anaesthetic to be administered to a foetus being terminated.

Minister for Health James Reilly rejected the amendment and said the legislation could not be that prescriptive for doctors.

Fianna Fáil Senator Jim Walsh had given a graphic description of an abortion, referring to limbs being removed but the baby's head being left behind. The Cathaoirleach and other Senators intervened to express their concern at his comments.

In an impassioned appeal Ms Moloney said there were young children sitting in the visitors’ gallery listening to the debate and there were adolescents watching on computers.

“The phraseology being used here today is absolutely disgraceful.”

A visibly emotional, Ms Moloney told the House: “I had a baby inside of me that didn’t live, that was dead. And that baby was taken from me but it was taken under anaesthetic and I think the carry on in here in disgraceful.”

The Kerry-based senator said “every single person in this chamber knows what we’re talking about and we don’t need to have it vocalised in front of children and young adolescents. That’s the way I feel about it.”

Mr Walsh later said he did not meant to cause offence to Ms Moloney. He said the issue was unlikely to come up again during the debate, but if it did he would give advance notice.

The amendment was proposed by Fidelma Healy-Eames, the former Fine Gael senator who was expelled from the parliamentary party for voting against the Bill at the second stage debate.

She said it should be a requirement for an anaesthetist to be present at every abortion to ensure the baby did not feel pain.

“I accept the sentiments of what you’re bringing to this,” said Dr Reilly. “Nobody wants to see any suffering by a mother or unborn child. I believe the medical professionals involved will do everything to ensure that.”

Doctors had a clear duty under the legislation to preserve the life of an unborn baby as far as possible.

But he said he had to reiterate, however inconvenient it might be, that he “cannot prescribe how doctors are to do their work”.