Taoiseach gets letters ‘written in blood’

The Taoiseach revealed he has received “letters written in blood” over his Government’s legislation allowing abortion in limited circumstances, which was published last night.

Standing firm against interventions by bishops on the issue, Enda Kenny said he was proud to stand in the Dáil as “a Taoiseach who happens to be Catholic, but not a Catholic Taoiseach”.

He was speaking before the cabinet signed off on the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill, which will legislate for the Supreme Court ruling in the X Case 21 years ago, that terminations are constitutional in cases where they are needed to save a woman’s life.

He spoke before an Ipsos MRBI/Irish Times poll revealed 75% support for abortion in such circumstances, with 11% having no opinion.

In a contribution during leaders’ questions that prompted applause from the Government benches, Mr Kenny said his job in governing the country was “not confined to any sector of the people” but “for all of the people”. “I am now being branded by personnel around the country as being a murderer, that I’m going to have on my soul the death of 20m babies. I am getting medals, scapulars, plastic foetuses, letters written in blood, telephone calls all over the system, and it’s not confined to me.”

The bill contains some changes from the outline published last month:

* Broadening the definition of psychiatrist to include child and adolescent psychiatrists who may be working in the community and not just in psychiatry hospitals or in-patient facility;

* Expanding the locations where a termination can take place beyond maternity hospitals, to include the four Dublin teaching hospitals: Saint Vincent’s, the Mater, Tallaght, and St James’s;

* Changes to the wording of the offence from “any act with the intention to destroy an unborn child” to “intentionally destroying an unborn child”. However, the offence and 14 years imprisonment will still apply to a pregnant woman;

* The inclusion of a provision giving the health minister power to suspend institutions deemed to be operating the act inappropriately.

There will be no clause for the law or lapse or need review after a certain time.

The main elements of the legislation unchanged are:

* One doctor will be required to certify that a termination is justified in the case of emergencies;

* Two doctors will have to certify where there is a physical threat to the life of the mother;

* Two obstetricians and one psychiatrist will have to determine the suicide risk of a pregnant women.

The legislation will now go before the Dáil and the initial stages of its passage could begin as early next week. The Government said it will be voted on before the summer recess, even if this requires the Dáil and Seanad to sit for longer.

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