Creighton expelled

Lucinda Creighton last night accused her former colleagues in Fine Gael of breaking their pledge on abortion after she was expelled from the parliamentary party over her stance on what she described as a “life and death” issue.

She has stepped down as junior minister for European affairs after she voted against the party whip on a Dáil vote proposing to remove the suicide grounds in the contentious abortion legislation.

She was immediately expelled from the parliamentary party but insisted she was staying in the party she has been involved with since she was 18.

“I’m not leaving Fine Gael. As far as I am concerned, I didn’t break any pledge that I made before the election. As far as I’m concerned the party has broken its pledge,” she said. “My instinct is to stay. I’ll be a TD and I’ll be a member of Fine Gael, I simply won’t be a member of the parliamentary party.”

The Dublin South East TD voted against amendment 56 to the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill which would have removed most of the section allowing terminations when a pregnant woman presents as suicidal.

Earlier she told the Dáil she was not trying to restrict the rights of women: “Why would I wish to restrict the rights of women? The right of life to women, to Irishwomen? I am a woman, I am an Irishwoman. Why would I want to do that?”

The Dáil debated the legislation as figures emerged showing career-age women account for more than half of those giving Irish addresses at British abortion clinics.

Of the 3,982 women involved, more than 2,000 (51%) were aged 20-29. The vast majority of abortions — 2,700 — were carried out at less then 10 weeks gestation, with just 3% performed at 20 weeks or more. A baby’s chances of survival are 0% at 21 weeks or less.

The smallest number of abortions (32) were among the under 16s. There were more among the over 40s (263) than the 18-19 age group (223).

Dublin figured in 1,275 Irish addresses (41%), followed by Cork at 320 (10%). Mayo, Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s home county, featured in 45 addresses.

The figures for 2012, released by the UK department of health, continue a decade-long downward trend (down from 6,673 in 2001) in the number of women giving Irish addresses at British clinics.

However, the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) said the numbers were “an underestimation” — that not all women resident in the Republic of Ireland give Irish addresses for reasons of confidentiality and cost.

The IFPA said some Irish women give British addr-esses in order to obtain abortion care paid for by the NHS. The NHS funded almost 180,000 of the 185,122 legal abortions carried out in Britain last year.

The IFPA also claimed that an increasing number of women attending its post-abortion medical and counselling services indicated that they had had terminations in other EU states.

However, the HSE crisis pregnancy programme said a statistical analysis of patterns of women travelling from Ireland to countries other than Britain showed the Netherlands was the only other jurisdiction to which women from Ireland are travelling in significant numbers. Those figures have decreased year on year from 461 in 2006 to 33 in 2011.

Dr Kevin Kelleher, HSE assistant national director — health protection, said state-funded crisis pregnancy counselling services “play an important role” in reducing the numbers travelling.

IFPA chief executive Niall Behan said, however, that they were hearing “every day from women who have to leave this country to access health services that should be available in Ireland”.

“No one can be under any illusion that enacting the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill fulfils the State’s responsibility to women,” Mr Behan said.

The bill permits abortion only in circumstances where there is a threat to the woman’s life because of a physical illness or a threat of suicide.

Mr Behan said in the last decade, the IFPA has received over 40,000 calls to its national helpline and provided non-directive counselling to more than 12,000 women.

The British abortion statistics report also shows that medical abortions accounted for 48% of the total in 2012, up from 14% since 2002.

Medical abortion involves the use of abortion pills, licensed in Britain for more than 20 years, but not legally available in Ireland.

In 2012, the Irish Medicines Board seized 487 abortion pills. Early medical abortion has been available since Oct 2012 in Northern Ireland in limited circumstances at the Marie Stopes Clinic in Belfast.

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