State to use mix of law, guidelines to deal with X case

 

The Cabinet will announce today that a combination of legislation and regulations will be required to comply with the Supreme Court decision on abortion in the X case.

The decision to follow this route – the fourth option from the expert group on abortion – will result in a legislative framework that will adhere to the key 1992 ruling, a senior source confirmed yesterday.

This is expected to allow the fear of suicide as a ground for abortion but may not provide for rape or sexual abuse, neither of which formed part of the X-case ruling. On foot of the decision, the Government is also expected to repeal provisions in the Offences against the State Act 1861, which criminalises abortion.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and a Minister of State yesterday all but confirmed the Government would follow the legislative route, rather than proposing guidelines, an option favoured by anti-abortion campaign groups. Minister for Health James Reilly will present a memorandum to this morning’s Cabinet meeting, with a decision expected in the afternoon.

Draft law in new year

Mr Kenny said that a Heads of a Bill (draft legislation) would be published in the new year following deliberations by the Oireachtas Committee on Health in early January, before the Dáil resumes.

This was also confirmed by Minister of State Kathleen Lynch in the Dáil. She said she believed the decision would involve a combination of legislation and regulation.

The indications were yesterday that the Government is working on a timetable of having the legislation ready by Easter.

The Taoiseach also said the Government whip would be applied. “There will be no free vote on this,” he said.

It came after Dublin Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy called for a free vote, a call echoed by Young Fine Gael. While Mr Murphy said he supported the Government’s preferred option, the inclusion of suicide may become a matter of major contention within Fine Gael. Labour TDs are expected to back the measure.

Concerns of Fine Gael TDs

At least a dozen of the party’s Deputies have indicated they have concerns over it being included as a ground for abortion, including Minister of State Lucinda Creighton; John O’Mahony; James Bannon; Regina Doherty: and John Paul Phelan.

“The uncertainty for many of us stems from the issue of including suicide in legislating for the X case. It is difficult for somebody who has a genuine fear that once the door is open it will not be capable of being closed,” Ms Doherty said.

Equally, many Fine Gael TDs have expressed strong support for legislation, including suicide as a ground. According to the expert group’s report, legislation plus regulations would also fulfil the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights and the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the A, B and C v Ireland case.

In 2010 the court decided Ireland was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of C.

The fourth option presented by the expert group states: “Most aspects of the provision of lawful termination of pregnancy would be set out in primary legislation, with certain operational matters delegated to the Minister to govern by way of regulations.

“The advantages of this option are that it fulfils the requirements of the judgment, it provides for appropriate checks and balances between the powers of the legislature and the executive, and would be amenable to changes that might arise out of clinical practice and scientific advances,” the report stated.