A senator has rejected claims that he suggested four women had a wider agenda as they told of their experiences of travelling for abortion due to fatal foetal abnormalities.
Rónán Mullen was accused of being unpleasant when Jenny McDonald, Ruth Bowie, Arlette Lyons, and Amanda Mellet took the harrowing step of telling their personal stories in Leinster House last Wednesday.
James Burke, Ms Mellet’s husband, claimed the senator had accused him of having a “bigger agenda” at the end of the meeting coinciding with renewed calls for the Government to legislate on the X case and allow abortion if the life of the mother or unborn child is under threat.
All four women had travelled abroad for terminations and claimed they felt the Irish health service chose to ignore and stigmatise them.
Mr Mullen has claimed that Mr Burke said he disliked him and his argumentative style before he “motioned me away” as they shook hands at the end of the discussion.
“It was at that point that I asked whether there was a separate agenda here as this was not what normally happened when politicians came along to follow up with people who came in to lobby them,” he said.
“The question was not asked in either a rhetorical or leading manner. I only asked the question once because it was clear that the man did not wish to speak with me.”
The four women are seeking support from politicians and the Government to legislate for abortion in special circumstances as dictated by the 20-year-old X case Supreme Court ruling. Successive governments have failed to act.
The next stage of the campaign is expected to see health professionals and the maternity hospitals called on to explain to the public the reasons an expectant mother could be allowed to choose to terminate a pregnancy.
Ms Mellet has said she was shocked by the incident with the senator and the couple insist their only agenda is to help other couples in similar situations as them. Mr Mullen, who is a pro-life supporter, said it was inaccurate and misleading to suggest he had alleged the women had a wider agenda.
“I want to put on record that I deeply sympathise with the women in this case while remaining true to my own view that even severely disabled babies with a short life expectancy deserve to be allowed to live their natural life.
“I strongly support the establishment of facilities to support women and families in this tragic situation.
“I do regret any attempt by various lobbying groups to use such sad cases to pursue a much wider abortion agenda.”
In a statement issued on behalf of the women immediately after their visit to Leinster House they said they felt the interactions with politicians “were very positive” and that their stories were “genuinely listened to by all of those present”.
An attempt by the technical group of TDs to force the Government to legislate on the X case failed last week.
Labour TDs were among those who rejected the bill, even though the party’s national conference had unanimously passed a pro-choice motion the previous weekend.
Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin sparked controversy during the abortion debate by claiming that “fornication”, consensual sex between two unmarried people, was the biggest cause of unwanted pregnancy. She subsequently said she believed abortion was being used as a form of birth control by a percentage of Irish women travelling to England.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved