Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he has been branded a murderer and sent plastic foetuses and letters written in blood over contentious plans to reform laws on abortion.
As ministers continue to deliberate over the wording of the new legislation, Mr Kenny said he was committed to representing all sectors of Irish society and providing women with clarity and certainty over their rights.
He detailed the depth of opposition to the proposals due to be in law by the summer.
“I’m now being branded by personnel around the country as being a murderer, I’m going to have on my soul the death of 20 million babies,” Mr Kenny said.
“I’m getting medals, scapulars, plastic foetuses, letters written in blood, telephone calls all over the system. And it’s not confined to me.”
If enacted, the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 will legalise abortion where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including the threat of suicide.
The Bill aims to legislate for the X case judgment from Ireland’s Supreme Court, which found abortion is legal if there is a real and substantial risk.
The case was taken by a 14-year-old rape victim who became pregnant and was refused permission to travel for an abortion.
Mr Kenny was given a round of applause after his stirring remarks in the Dail, when he said he wanted to be a Taoiseach for all the people.
He said while he happens to be Catholic, he is “not a Catholic Taoiseach”.
“My job as Taoiseach is to lead the Government on governing for the people of our country,” Mr Kenny said.
“That’s not confined to any sector of the people – it is for all of the people.”
Mr Kenny said the legislation is “about saving lives, not ending them” and insisted the Government was not changing laws on abortion, but rather clarifying laws that already exist.
The loosening of the rules on abortion is also intended to meet requirements from a European court decision that found a woman in remission from cancer should not have been forced to travel oversees for a termination.
“It’s not a case of the Government introducing legislation about abortion, it’s a case of the Government providing legal certainty and clarity about a law that has been around for a long time,” the Taoiseach said.
Cabinet ministers met from 8am this morning to consider a report from a cross-party health committee on the proposed legislation as well as the wording of the laws.
The meeting was adjourned but is expected to continue into the afternoon.
Mr Kenny said the legislation will be published as soon as Government ministers have deliberated on it.