AG set to say abortion bill is unconstitutional

A bill to liberalise the country’s abortion laws looks set to be declared “unconstitutional” by Attorney General Marie Whelan, the Irish Examiner can reveal.

AG set to say abortion bill is unconstitutional

Yesterday, the Irish Examiner revealed three Independent Alliance ministers – Shane Ross, Finian McGrath and John Halligan - are intending to vote against the Government next week in order to support a bill being brought by Independent TD Mick Wallace.

But last night, Health Minister Simon Harris said he would refer the matter to the Attorney General Maire Whelan for guidance on the matter, while Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said she would await that guidance before she makes her decision as how to vote.

Mr Harris said he believes that the current situation was “unacceptable”.

However, he said he wanted to make sure what he supported would be meaningful and constitutional.

The Wicklow TD said he would consult his Cabinet colleagues after receiving the advice.

Ms Zappone’s support for the Government is contingent on progress on liberalising the country’s abortion laws, but it is felt she would be reluctant to vote against Fine Gael.

It is understood that because Mr Walllace’s bill is a carbon copy of a 2013 bill brought by Independent TD Clare Daly which was ruled unconstitutional by Ms Whelan, the same will occur this time around.

This may enable Mr Halligan, Mr McGrath and Mr Ross to change their position and either vote against Mr Wallace’s bill or abstain from the vote.

Fianna Fáil TDs will be given a free vote when the Dail decides on a bill to liberalise the country’s abortion laws next week, it has emerged.

The move by the lead opposition party, which is propping up the minority Government, has heightened pressure on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to allow a free vote for ministers and Government deputies. But Fine Gael sources last night said the issue of a free vote does not arise at this stage.

Mr Wallace’s bill is proposing to liberalise the abortion laws to allow for a termination in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and in cases of rape and incest.

A Government spokesman said yesterday conversations between Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance are continuing with a view to resolving the dispute.

But it was accepted within Government that the three ministers could be given a free hand to vote with their conscience when the division is taken in the Dáil next Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit group yesterday launched its own bill to repeal the controversial 1983 8th Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees equal status to the mother and her unborn child.

The new will be debated by the Dáil this autumn and seeks to go further than Mr Wallace’s bill which would allow for abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

Speaking at the launch yesterday, AAA-PBP TDs Ruth Coppinger and Brid Smith said the Government can no longer deny the women of Ireland their basic right to protect their health by legalising abortion.

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