Taoiseach Enda Kenny has dismissed claims by Dublin’s Catholic archbishop that proposed X case legislation will be too liberal.
As the Oireachtas begins another round of intensive hearings on the emotive subject today, Mr Kenny said the Government’s objective was to save lives and give clarity to the medical profession.
“This is about saving lives and clearly fundamental to any assessment of any person with difficulty in pregnancy is the requirement to do everything that’s possible, practicable in the sense of saving the life of the unborn as well as that of the mother.
“The bill that we propose here obviously doesn’t change the legislation on abortion. It’s about saving lives, giving clarity to the protection of the life of the mother and the requirement to do everything that is possible and practicable in the sense of saving the life of the unborn child as well.”
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin had set out his objections in a newspaper letter which the Taoiseach said he had read.
The cleric criticised the inclusion of a provision in the legislation for a termination if a woman is suicidal.
“There is a growing impression that the judgement of the X-case ‘is the Constitution’. I believe that it is an interpretation given in a specific case which does not supersede or relativise the clear constitutional right to equal protection for unborn life in the circumstances which I have outlined. Indeed it would give the life of such an unborn child less protection than is guaranteed in liberal abortion laws in other countries,” the archbishop said in his letter to The Irish Times.
The archbishop said he felt anxiety in relation to instances where an unborn child is viable yet doctors consider an abortion to save the mother’s life.
The Coalition has agreed finally to legislate for the 21-year-old X case ruling which found termination is legal if there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including the threat of suicide. The case was taken by a 14-year-old rape victim who became pregnant and was refused permission to travel for an abortion.
Mr Kenny said the situation would become clearer after the detail of the legislation is produced following on from three days of hearings on the issue by the Oireachtas health committee.
As the issue moved centre stage again, Fine Gael senator Fidelma Healy Eames said she had received threats of a sexual nature from people claiming to be pro-choice.
Commenting on revelations by FG TD Regina Doherty that she has had violent threats from people claiming to be anti-abortion campaigners, the senator appeared to disagree with going public on such matters.
“I completely sympathise with my colleague Regina Doherty who has reported receiving anonymous correspondence of a deeply unacceptable nature. I have received some vile and threatening messages myself from people, allegedly on the pro-choice side of the debate. I’ve been receiving such material for some time. Some messages contained threats of a sexual nature.”
But she added: “I understand the desire to alert the public to this kind of correspondence but I think on balance it may be better to alert the gardaí. I also think that’s a more prudent approach than drawing attention to the details of such threats in the media.”
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