Government targeting ‘seriously-ill unborn babies’, says campaigner

Cora Sherlock calls on Taoiseach to ‘address the real issues’ surrounding abortion debate

An anti-abortion protester attends a mass marchin Dublin in July.  Photograph:  Nick Bradsha/The Irish Times

An anti-abortion protester attends a mass marchin Dublin in July. Photograph: Nick Bradsha/The Irish Times

 

Members of the Government are acting in a “sad and reprehensible” manner by considering a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment, according to the Pro-Life Campaign.

Speaking following Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s announcement that he would allow a free vote on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment if a constitutional convention supports the proposition, the organisation’s deputy chairwoman Cora Sherlock ck called him to “address the real issues” surrounding the abortion debate.

The 1983 amendment to the Constitution, which governs Ireland’s abortion laws, affords equal rights to the mother and the unborn.

“His announcement that there will be a free vote does not in any way address the real issues... he’s just said it to stir up some pre-election controversy,” Ms Sherlock told The Irish Times. “He should be explaining why members of his government, including the minister for children, are suggesting a referendum that would target the lives of seriously ill unborn babies.”

She said the Taoiseach should address “the horrors of abortion around the world”. She said she would like to hear his opinion on “comfort care” - a practice reportedly used in some late-term abortions whereby a baby is allegedly wrapped in a blanket and left to die.

Ms Sherlock said it was dismissive of Minister for Children James Reilly to call for a referendum on the Eighth Amendment, saying he was not reflecting on the experiences of families who “met their children and were able to spend time with them, even if it is only a short life”.

In an interview with the Sunday Independent, Dr Reilly called for a referendum early in the term of the next Government, saying he could not “countenance as a doctor or human being” seeing women being forced to go through with their pregnancies in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, or forced to hide UK abortion.

Asked to elaborate on her comments earlier this week that parents are coming under pressure to abort following the diagnosis of a life-limiting condition, Ms Sherlock said abortion could become “the default position” offered to parents if a foetus was diagnosed with a terminal illness.

“If you look at other countries, what happens is the default position is parents are offered an abortion. Then that trickles down into disabilities where it’s not life threatening.”

'Blinkered'

Ms Sherlock described Labour’s call for a referendum as “blinkered”, saying members of the party were “side-stepping the horrors and injustice of abortion”.

“Let’s talk about it in plain English,” she said. “It’s time that pro-choice groups stopped with all the euphemisms and talked about what they really want. It’s not going to enable the public to make any genuine reflection on this complex and sensitive issue.”

The Labour Party published plans for a post-election coalition demand on abortion this week which would allow for abortion under four medically certified grounds: risk to life; risk to health; cases of rape; and fatal foetal abnormality. It would also decriminalise abortion.

At the publication of the plan, chairwoman of Labour Women Sinéad Ahern highlighted the realities faced by thousands of women forced to travel abroad for abortions every year.

“Nobody under the age of 50 has had a chance to vote on whether the Eighth Amendment should be in our constitution,” said Ms Ahern. “It’s time we let the people have their say.”