Timmins to vote against abortion Bill
Fine Gael TD for Wicklow to join two others and break Government ranks
Billy Timmins said he believed the legislation could be unconstitutional and “while this legislation may pass, I do not think it will address our problems. Instead it will increase them.” Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Wicklow TD Billy Timmins has joined two Fine Gael backbenchers in confirming his intention to break Government ranks and vote against the abortion legislation.
Mr Timmins yesterday told the Dáil he could not support the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill while the provision for suicide remained.
Mr Timmins said he believed the legislation could be unconstitutional and “while this legislation may pass, I do not think it will address our problems. Instead it will increase them.”
He cited concerns of medical professions and listed the names of 12 gynaecologists expressing their opposition. “Almost to a man and a woman they are totally opposed to section 9 of the Bill”, which provides for a termination where a woman is suicidal.
Another Government backbencher also expressed concern the legislation could be unconstitutional.
Barrister and Clare Labour TD Michael McNamara said the way the Bill was currently drafted would make it permissible to intentionally kill the foetus even if it might otherwise survive a procedure necessary to save the mother’s life.
He also believed cases of fatal foetal abnormality could possibly be provided for in the Bill. There was “at least a tenable argument” the courts would consider a foetus was not an “unborn” for the purposes of article 40.3.3 which prohibits abortion, where there was no realistic prospect of life outside the womb.
Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said the Bill would give women “access to the rights they are entitled to by the Constitution of this Republic”.
He said successive governments had failed to deal with the legislation for more than 20 years.
“I am proud as a Labour TD, as a social democrat, as a feminist and as a father to be at last speaking on this Bill.”
He said “this Bill, when enacted, will still not be compulsory”.
“People who abhor abortion in any form whatsoever, will not be compelled to avail of its provisions.”
Independent TD Thomas Pringle said “by continuing to ban abortion we do not prevent it, we just export it, disguise it and deny it, instead of addressing these women’s genuine needs, not all of which are provided for in this Bill”.
Fine Gael TD Paschal Donohoe said the law had to be absolutely clear.
“A woman faced with the risk of losing her life should not face the vista of the State making a choice for her. It is our responsibility as legislators to create a framework within which those choices can be made but not to make them for her.”
The debate in the Dáil continues on Monday.