The limited nature of planned abortion legislation means the issue is likely to be subject to a future court challenge by a woman pregnant as a result of rape or a carrying a foetus that has no chance of survival, according to Kathleen Lynch, the Junior Health Minister.
But she said the coalition could not have gone any further in framing the bill — published last week — without putting the changes to the people in what would most likely be a divisive referendum campaign.
The Labour minister said there were measures her party would have liked to have seen in the legislation — but they had to be guided by the Supreme Court ruling on the X Case 21 years ago and the A, B and C ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.
In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Ms Lynch said families have been “deeply traumatised” in cases where women had to carry a foetus with fatal abnormalities. She said she had “no doubt” that a right to a termination in such circumstances will be subject to a court challenge.
This, she said, means politicians may have to revisit the issue sometime in the near or mid-future. She also said it was likely that a rape victim would bring their case to the courts seeking to have their legal right to a termination.
She said negotiations between Fine Gael and Labour on the Protection of Human Life Bill in were “very difficult” at times. “From the outset, we were very conscious that we were not going to please everybody and I suppose we knew there was a chance that we were not going to please anybody,” she said.
But in the discussions between both parties “we quickly came down to the point that the expert group were guiding our way”. That group — established by the Government in response to the European Court ruling, recommended that the threat to life by suicide be assessed by a panel of three medical experts and one GP.
Asked whether the discussions resulted in tensions between her and James Reilly, the health minister, Ms Lynch said they had a “good relationship” but “when you are in difficult negotiations, tempers are always frayed”.
Further difficulties between coalition parties are likely with Labour TDs yesterday pledging they would resist any attempts by Fine Gael TDs to insert amendments to the legislation.
But Ms Lynch said the Bill, now that it has been published, is unstoppable.
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