SF members may get ‘conscience vote’ on abortion

A motion calling for a ‘conscience vote’ will be tabled at the Sinn Féin ard fheis next weekend in a move designed to keep pro-life elected members on board.

The special conference will be the first for Mary Lou McDonald as leader but will have particular focus on the aftermath of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment and Sinn Féin’s position.

Party members are expected to back an Ard Chomhairle motion backing the decisive Yes vote in the referendum that abortion should be allowed unrestricted for a limited period.

It states that Sinn Féin “accepts abortion, without specific indication, should be available through a GP-led service in a clinical context as determined by law and licensing practice for a limited gestational period”.

The party during the campaign supported repealing the Eighth Amendment but only agreed terminations should take place in limited cases such as fatal foetal abnormality. 

While the leadership supported more unrestricted circumstances, this was not adopted by a conference ahead of the vote.

Sinn Féin TDs in recent days have held meetings with members in constituencies to seek support for the Ard Chomhairle motion.

While the Government proposes allowing abortions without specific indication for up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, the Sinn Féin motion will not state how many weeks. This is because, party sources claim, the time limit may alter when legislation comes before the Dáil.

“This is being called the abortion ard fheis. If the motion doesn’t get through, we will not be supporting the legislation,” a Sinn Fein TD privately told the Irish Examiner.

The more controversial motion will see members seeking a so-called conscience or free vote. This will be tabled by cumman from Meath and south Derry. It is to address pro-life elected members’ concerns.


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