‘Bill should have dealt with cases of fatal foetal abnormalities’

A Fine Gael TD has spoken about his disappointment that proposed laws allowing abortion in limited circumstances will still force women to travel abroad for a termination if they are carrying a foetus that has no chance of survival after birth.

Andrew Doyle said he would have preferred if the legislation did not include the suicide grounds for abortion, but dealt with cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

The Wicklow TD asked the James Reilly, the health minister, to clarify the legal position on whether terminations could be constitutional in cases where there is a “diagnoses beyond all doubt” that a foetus is incompatible with life outside the womb.

The Taoiseach earlier ruled out allowing an amendment to abortion legislation to include cases of fatal foetal abnormalities — despite a last-minute plea from women who have endured the trauma of such pregnancies.

There are an estimated 1,500 such cases diagnosed in Ireland annually, and 80% of the women involved travel abroad for a termination.

Independent TD John Halligan, one of those tabling an amendment to the proposed bill, said: “There is simply no argument for forcing these women to carrying an inviable foetus to term in the knowledge that it will be incapable of surviving.”

Mr Kenny responded that he came across situations “where the pregnant mother actually wanted to see the pregnancy through so she could hold the baby in her arms and carry out an appropriate burial”.

The bill going through the house “is strictly within the Constitution and strictly within the law”, he said during leaders’ questions.

“It deals specifically in cases where the is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, and the circumstances that arise in those cases where a termination is allowable under the Constitution and the law.”

As the Dáil debate on the legislation got under way, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin defended his decision to allow his party a free vote on the bill. “There are many good reasons we need a strong system of party discipline, but there has to be some limit to this and I believe the issue of human life is something which must not be treated like normal political business,” he said.

Fianna Fáil TD, Michael McGrath — who opposes the bill — said he has “enormous sympathy” for Fine Gael TDs who are subject to the whip.

One Fine Gael TD urged Dr Reilly to reconsider the provision in the bill to penalise a woman for 14 years for procuring an abortion.

Olivia Mitchell said it was “Dickensian to treat a distraught woman in the same way as one would a back-street abortionist, operating for profit”.

The first vote on the legislation is expected early next week.

What TDs said about the legislation

*“This has been a long, lonely, difficult, and emotional road. It has not been a popular road to take. People in my party and others who have taken this road have had their points of view distorted, poisoned, or misrepresented when they have been trying to save women’s lives.” — Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

*“I am sorry to say one part of the legislation also displays this lack of understanding or compassion, namely, the sanctions that apply in the bill. I hope the [health] minister will reflect on the inappropriateness of the extreme penalty of 14 years in jail applying to a woman who procures an abortion, or has a self-induced one.” — Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell

*“I received a considerable amount of information, some points of which were more novel than others, perhaps in an effort to grab my attention or change my viewpoint, but I never felt there was anything disturbing about any of it. I would vindicate the right of all to lobby, respectfully and in whatever way they wish, those whom they elect to make the laws on their behalf. That is important.” — Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley


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