Katherine Zappone seeks AG advice on abortion Bill

Minister told legislation could assist abusive partners more than pregnant women

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr Katherine Zappone: was advised by Ministers about a Bill imposing a €1 fine on an abusive man who beats a woman and causes her to lose a baby. Fine Gael women pointed out it was a bad Bill, not a conscience issue. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr Katherine Zappone: was advised by Ministers about a Bill imposing a €1 fine on an abusive man who beats a woman and causes her to lose a baby. Fine Gael women pointed out it was a bad Bill, not a conscience issue. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone was told by four of her women Cabinet colleagues that an abortion Bill she sought more time to examine would help abusive partners rather than pregnant women.

The Cabinet has once again disagreed on an Opposition abortion Bill with Ms Zappone seeking further advice from the Attorney General on the proposal from the Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit and Green Party.

The Bill, due to be voted on on Thursday, seeks to change a section of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. It would alter the punishment for someone found guilty of the destruction of an unborn life from a “fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years, or both” to “a fine of not more than €1”.

In the Dáil, Taoiseach Enda Kenny made similar claims to his Fine Gael colleagues about the Bill potentially helping abusive partners.

The 8th Amendment to the constitution gives equal rights to the mother and the unborn child. Repealing the 8th amendment would change the law so that termination could be made legal. Which of the following statements, if any, most closely represents your view on this issue?

Dublin South Central TD Bríd Smith (AAA-PBP) called the claims “disgraceful and silly” and an attempt to portray the proposals as “decriminalising grievous bodily and harm and assault”. The Bill’s aim was to decriminalise abortion, she said.

An amendment was put down by Minister for Health Simon Harris in the Dáil on Tuesday night which declines to give the Bill a second reading. However, the Cabinet has again failed to take a collective position on an abortion Bill. It is understood Minister for Transport Shane Ross and Minister of State Finian McGrath also raised concerns.

Fatal foetal abnormalities

There was a serious Government dispute last summer over a Bill tabled by Mick Wallace and Clare Daly that would have allowed for abortions in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities.

The Independent Alliance is willing to support whatever position is taken by the Cabinet and it is expected Ms Zappone will be reassured by advice given by Ms Whelan before the vote.

Sources said Fine Gael Cabinet members – Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys, Minister for Jobs Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Chief Whip Regina Doherty – outlined to Ms Zappone the effect they believed the Bill would have.

“The Bill would impose a €1 fine on an abusive man who beats a woman and causes her to lose the baby,” a Minister said. “The Fine Gael women pointed this out. They pointed out it was a bad Bill and not a conscience issue. It also reaffirms women who have abortions as criminals.”

The row comes as a march is due to take place through Dublin on Wednesday, International Women’s Day, calling on the Government to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which gives equal right to life to the mother and the unborn.