Ronan Mullen pledges to 'fight the good fight' in Seanad abortion debate

Health Minister Simon Harris is set to reject amendments to his controversial abortion legislation when it is debated in the Seanad on Monday.

Concerns have been expressed by senators on both sides of the debate with pro-life opponents to the bill criticising attempts to rush the legislation through, while pro-choice senators have expressed concern over elements of the bill as currently drafted.

Particularly, they have expressed concern at the inclusion of the three-day waiting period before an abortion can be carried out, a provision which was inserted to assuage Tanaiste Simon Coveney earlier this year.

Senator Alice Mary Higgins said her key concern is the question of criminalisation. “People voted not to police women and their health. They voted to support them. There is no place in this Bill for criminalisation,” she said.

Trinity Senator Lynne Ruane said Ireland has among the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe and that will continue to be the case after the Bill is passed. “However, I want to work with what we have before us. Although it may not be perfect, it is a real sign of progress. However, on the most problematic provision taken from the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, I do not see how it is justifiable that the broad criminalisation of abortion services has been retained in the Bill,” she said.

Independent NUI Senator Ronan Mullen, a strong opponent of the bill, said what is at the heart of this Bill is truly frightening, noting it defines "termination of pregnancy" as "a medical procedure which is intended to end the life of a foetus", a position which he said is “beyond tears”.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Mullen said he knows he is facing an uphill task but will “fight the good fight” for the 34% of people who voted against the referendum proposal in May.

He criticised the undue haste with which the bill is being “shoe-horned” through the Oireachtas.

Donegal Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill echoed such concerns calling on his colleagues not to repeat the mistake and seek to rush through legislation for the sake of adhering to some arbitrarily defined and ultimately self-imposed political deadline.

“This House and its Members must be accorded the space and the respect necessary for sufficient analysis,” he said.

But senator Ivana Bacik rejected such claims the process was being rushed.

“In fact, I would argue it is taking too long. The people voted six months ago so we have a duty to give effect to their wishes.”

Ms Bacik also said she hoped the debate next week will remain respectful and not become like it was in the Dail, which she described as “terrible.”

Mr Harris, meanwhile, said he looks forward to a high rate of participation among general practitioners so that women can access the service at the stage in pregnancy when it is safest to do so.

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