Shatter criticises 'rhetoric' and 'inaccuracies' in abortion debate

By Mary Regan, Political Correspondent

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has asked TDs if it was right that they should bury their heads in the sand and ignore the fact that thousands of women travel abroad every year for terminations.

Speaking in a Dáil debate on legislation allowing abortions in limited circumstances, the Minister said most members of the House were in a situation where their teenage daughter was raped would not believe she should have to be suicidal in order to be entitled to a termination.

"We can't address that issue under the current constitutional boundaries, but we can ensure that if the victim in those circumstances is suicidal we provide her with the protection she deserves, that is what we are doing here this evening."

In a speech on the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill, he rejected many of the legal arguments put forward by Junior Minister Lucinda Creighton, who is poised to oppose the Government, losing the party whip and her junior ministry.

Mr Shatter criticised the "rhetoric" and "inaccuracies" that he had heard throughout the day as deputies debated some of the 165 proposed amendments to the legislation which will be voted on in the next few hours.

Earlier, Ms Creighton said there was no obligation to legislate for abortions on the grounds of suicide.

Mr Shatter said there was a constitutional obligation to bring the legislation before the House and "if there is any doubt about the constitutionality of the legislation it is up to the President to refer it to the Supreme Court".

He also repeated his "personal belief" that it was a "great cruelty that women with fatal foetal abnormalities cannot have their pregnancy ended".

But he said this cannot happen without a referendum.

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