TDs press for ‘disability amendment’ in abortion law

By Juno McEnroe

TDs who opposed repealing the Eighth Amendment will press for a ‘disability amendment’ to be added to forthcoming legislation to stop access to termination as soon as such conditions are diagnosed.

Health Minister Simon Harris has signalled he will oppose the move, in line with a Government commitment that abortions will be legal without specific indication in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Independent TD Michael Collins.

The move would delay the passing of the legislation to give effect to the resounding vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment and liberalise Ireland’s abortion laws.

Independent TDs Mattie McGrath and Michael Collins said at the weekend that they would support proposals to specifically exclude disability in a pregnancy as grounds for a termination.

Mr Collins, a Cork South West TD with the Rural Independent Group (RIG), said:

“If it means RIG have to table it, we won’t be found wanting if it protects people with disabilities,” he said.

The TD, who opposed holding a referendum at all, told the Irish Examiner he would be consulting with other “fellow-minded” Independents about such an amendment. A spokeswoman for Mr Harris yesterday said that, under the general scheme for terminations, it would be illegal to allow for an abortion here in circumstances other than those specified, which did not include for a disability, for conditions such as fatal foetal abnormality.

The spokeswoman added: “TDs are perfectly entitled to bring amendments but it remains the case that the general scheme does not permit termination on grounds of disability, and nor will the final legislation.”

Fianna Fail’s Mary Butler, who backed a no vote, also said she would back such an amendment to ban terminations where a disability is diagnosed.

It is thought pro-life TDs would propose the changes when the draft legislation is published and comes to committee stage in the Dáil in July or for report stage in September.

They have maintained that they will not delay the passage of the legislation, but that they are entitled to introduce amendments.

Elsewhere, Mr Harris yesterday told Newstalk radio that there would be no abortion clinics in Ireland and that terminations would be overseen by GP services, as advocated by voters in the referendum.

He also said he expects to receive a progress reporting into the preliminary investigation into the cervical cancer controversy in “the coming days”.

Details of the Scally scoping inquiry would be made public, confirmed Mr Harris.

The review by Gabriel Scally into the CervicalCheck screening programme is examining the non-disclosure of information from audits to patients and what the HSE and the Department of Health knew. It will assess the operation of the laboratories contracted for tests and also consult with Vicky Phelan, the Limerick women who exposed the scandal.

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.


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