Coalition set to reject abortion legislation

James Reilly, the health minister, last night faced down a bid to legalise abortion for women whose lives are at risk but pledged that action would be taken to minimise dangers for them.

Independent TDs yesterday launched a bid to force the State to offer abortions to pregnant women where there is a real and substantial risk to their lives.

Launching her Medical Treatment Bill, Socialist Party TD Clare Daly argued that 150,000 Irish women had been forced to travel abroad for procedures since the 1980s. She said the bill was proofed by international experts and she called on government party TDs to back the initiative and allow it to be passed.

“Irish abortion exists, it just doesn’t take place in Ireland,” she told the Dáil.

Independent TD Mick Wallace cried as he read out letters from women who had been forced to travel abroad. He received a round of applause.

A vote on the proposals will take place this evening.

In advance of the vote, Dr Reilly said he recognised the concerns about threats to pregnant women’s lives. However, he said there were concerns about parts of the bill, relating to consent, as it was not compatible with the Constitution.

The bill seeks to legalise abortion where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of a pregnant woman.

The move comes 20 years on from a Supreme Court ruling in what became known as the X case.

This gave women the right to a procedure if a pregnant woman’s life was at risk, including the risk of suicide. The ruling has never been legislated for.

A European Court of Human Rights ruling two years ago, called the ABC case, also said the State must provide a legislative basis for the legal termination of a pregnancy in limited cases where the treatment is needed to avert a woman’s death.

The Programme for Government pledged to set up an expert group to make recommendations on how to deal with this issue. Enda Kenny said yesterday that the Government was awaiting the results of the group.

Dr Reilly added: “We will take advice as a government to ensure that no woman’s life is ever put in danger.”

Pro-life groups protesting outside Leinster House claimed the proposed bill was really about offering abortion throughout a pregnancy and not just where a woman’s life was at threat.

A group of four women who travelled for terminations because of fatal foetal abnormalities yesterday met 25 TDs and senators. Jenny McDonald, Ruth Bowie, Amanda Mellet, and Arlette Lyons, said they shared their stories to prevent women having to travel abroad.

Their statement added: “Telling our story has not been easy, but we hope that those politicians who listened to us today will now move to take steps to address the treatment deficit within our healthcare system.

“Undoubtedly, in the future, other women will find themselves in the same situation as we did.”

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