Fine Gael lost two more Oireachtas members from its parliamentary party yesterday as two senators voted against the abortion legislation as it passed through the Upper House.
The loss of Senators Fidelma Healy Eames and Paul Bradford brings to seven the number of Oireachtas members now expelled after opposing the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.
Sen Healy Eames told colleagues there was an absence of evidence showing abortion could stop a woman committing suicide. It was not in the best interests of women that the legislation was “railroaded” through because Labour wanted it, she argued.
A lack of a ‘time limit’ for terminations in the bill allowed abortions to take place up to birth, she claimed.
Referring to her adopted child, she said she was lucky to be a mother as other women had “chosen life”.
The senator said she did not want to be expelled from the Fine Gael parliamentary party but that all modern democracies allowed politicians a free vote on important issues.
Mr Bradford said the inclusion of a suicide clause in the legislation would “open the door” for abuse of the new regulations.
He said the legislation was “unhelpful” and “very dangerous” in addressing the issue of women seeking abortions. He said most in Fine Gael did not think party members would come to the stage in their political lives that the party would be “bringing abortion legislation” before the Oireachtas.
Ten Fianna Fáil senators also opposed the legislation but four backed it.
Averil Power said abortion was never desirable but necessary in some cases, especially when it came to saving a women’s life.
Ms Power described how she had been adopted as a baby. However, she said the bill would ensure clear criteria and guidelines were there when abortions were allowed.
If a 14-year-old girl was raped and suicidal, like the X case, everything should be done to prevent her taking her own life, including allowing an abortion, she added.
Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway said it was time to examine the whip system in Irish politics and whether it needed to be reformed. Oireachtas members have been told by Fine Gael chiefs they will be expelled from the parliamentary party — face the loss of the whip — if they oppose the bill.
Labour’s Jimmy Harte questioned why people could trust doctors carrying out a heart operation but asked why they could not be trusted to decide on abortion cases. He said the 50% of the country who are male should not be talking about it as it was an issue for women.
The bill passed the second stage in the Seanad by 42 votes to 14 yesterday and will be debated at committee stage today where amendments can be proposed.
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