Unconstitutional to include fatal foetal abnormalities in legislation, Taoiseach says

TD tells Dáil it is ’barbaric’ that 1,500 women faced with decision to travel for termination

It is not permissible under the Constitution to include in abortion legislation a provision for abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, the Taoiseach has told the Dáil.

Enda Kenny said the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill dealt with the circumstances in which a termination of pregnancy was allowable, and this was where there was a threat to the life of the mother.

Mr Kenny was responding during leaders' questions in the Dáil to Independent TD John Halligan, who pointed out that 1,500 women in Ireland each year had to deal with a pregnancy where the baby would live for just minutes outside the womb.

"They face a crisis of conscience, whether to continue with their doomed pregnancy only to watch their baby die in their arms after taking its first breath, or to end the pregnancy," Mr Halligan said, adding that 80 per cent of them opted to travel for a termination.

It was "barbaric" that the State forced them "in tragic circumstances to leave their home and country without care or advice at a time when they should be surrounded by their loved ones".


A number of women who had had to deal with such pregnancies and members of the medical profession were in the Dáil public gallery when the Waterford TD raised the issue. Members of the Termination for Medical Reasons group, they had submitted a suggested amendment to the legislation to allow terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

Mr Halligan said the group had received legal advice that it was possible to include a reference to fatal foetal abnormalities in the Bill.

“Every day in this country four devastated couples are told the woman is carrying a foetus with fatal abnormalities,” he said. “There is simply no argument for forcing these women to carry an unviable foetus to term in the knowledge that it will be incapable of surviving.”

Mr Kenny said everybody understood Mr Halligan’s comments and would have some compassion on the issue. He had come across such cases where the mother wanted to see the pregnancy through in order to hold the baby in her arms and have an appropriate burial.

Mr Kenny said he could not accede to the request to include fatal foetal abnormality in the legislation. “The Bill going through the House on the protection of life during pregnancy is strictly within the Constitution and the law, and deals specifically with cases in which there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times