Abortion bill passes first Seanad vote, two FG members defy whip

Abortion bill passes first Seanad vote, two FG members defy whip
Senator Fidelma Healy Eames

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill passed its first vote in the Seanad by 41 votes to 15.

However, Fine Gael has lost two more members, after Fidelma Healy Eames and Paul Bradford voted against the Bill.

Ms Healy Eames confirmed earlier that she could not support the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 as it stands, claiming it is unconstitutional.

“I don’t want to lose the Fine Gael party whip but I do want to exercise my human right to make a conscientious decision,” Ms Healy Eames said.

“Almost every western democracy provides for a free vote on issues like abortion. Why don’t we have the confidence to trust our parliamentarians to make the right decision?”

Five Fine Gael TDs, including former junior minister Lucinda Creighton, have already lost the party whip after their backbench revolt during two night sessions in the Dáil last week.

Mr Bradford, who is married to Ms Creighton, claimed that abortion goes against the fabric of Fine Gael’s election promise.

The landmark laws enshrine a woman’s right to a termination if her life is at risk, including from suicide.

They passed through the Dáil last week with a comfortable majority of 127 votes to 31.

The upper house began debating it on yesterday and will continue through tomorrow and Thursday.

The final stages of the legislation are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday next week, when the final vote to pass it will be held.

Once passed through Seanad, and provided there are no demands for further amendments, the legislation will be brought to President Michael D Higgins who will sign off on it and enshrine it into law.

During the debate, Ms Healy Eames accused the Government of breaking pre-election promises about abortion.

“I have been a committed member of Fine Gael for many years – the party that made a solemn promise to voters not to legislate for abortion,” she said.

“It saddens me greatly that Fine Gael has broken this promise. In the words of Thomas More, any public servant who would forsake his private conscience for the sake of his public duties leads his country down the short route to chaos.”

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