TDs urge recording of detailed abortion data

Mattie McGrath defended the proposals

Pro-life TDs seeking strict recordings of abortions in Ireland have been accused of coming from the “school of the Deep South” in the US and of mirroring apartheid in South Africa.

A number of Independent TDs sought last night to amend the abortion legislation going through the Dáil so that women would have to reveal their marital status and ethnicity when seeking a termination.

Labour TD Joan Burton criticised the move and in a passionate speech said the proposed amendments did not reflect a modern Ireland.

She questioned why the TDs wanted to record a woman’s marital status and ethnicity.

It was “needlessly offensive”, declared the Labour TD, and the language and suggested changes were more in keeping with “apartheid” in South Africa as opposed to modern Ireland.

The proposals were from the “school of the Deep South” in the US, she said, where politicians have rowed back against access to abortion.

TDs Peter Fitzpatrick, Carol Nolan, and Mattie McGrath defended their proposals. Ms Nolan said records of the mother and pregnancy were needed to give the “death of unborn child statistical significance”.

Mr Fitzpatrick said such details were recorded for other health procedures.

However, Health Minister Simon Harris said he would not be changing the current proposals for limited records. The methods could be reviewed in three years, he told the Dáil.

Minimal data would be collected by the HSE, he said, and some information published.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said the proposal to jail doctors if they did not collect certain data was an attempt to apply pressure and was about “making women feel guilty and ashamed”.

Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien declared the proposals to record ethnicity “racist”

Meanwhile, the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) has urged TDs to pass the new abortion law through the Dáil, despite fears that the existing bill does not go far enough.

In a letter addressed to all TDs, NWCI director Orla O’Connor acknowledged there were legitimate fears that the existing bill does not decriminalise abortion or introduce buffer zones to prevent intimidation at facilities where abortions will take place.

However, Ms O’Connor said the onus is on politicians to temporarily put these issues to one side and push the bill through the Dáil this week to ensure the January 1 abortion services deadline can be met.

The NWCI acknowledges the hard work that you are undertaking in passing legislation to give effect to the landslide Yes vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment last May,” read Ms O’Connor’s letter: “As things stand, women and girls continue to travel to access healthcare, or take abortion pills without medical supervision.

“While recognising this legislation does not do everything we have advocated for, such as decriminalise abortion and allow for safety zones to protect women from protestors, we urge you to ensure that women centred legislation is ready to progress to the Seanad this week.

“There is an enormous public mandate to ensure that abortion care services are available to all women and girls who need them from January 1, 2019.”

A number of TDs have backed the NWCI call.

Debate on the legislation will continue in the Dáil today.

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