David Norris: Pro-life is the last sting of a dying wasp

Pro-life groups opposing the repeal of the Eighth Amendment represent “the last sting of a dying wasp” and will be defeated in the same way they lost the contraception, divorce, and marriage equality wars, pro-choice politicians have said.

David Norris: Pro-life is the last sting of a dying wasp

Pro-choice senators made the claim during an at-times divisive Seanad debate on the referendum bill last night in what is likely to be the final Oireachtas stage before the referendum polling day is formally announced.

Speaking during a four-hour debate which also heard Health Minister Simon Harris confirm that he will announce the widely tipped Friday May 25 polling day this week if the referendum bill is passed, pro-choice senators insisted the time is now to change the law.

Labour senator Ged Nash said the “once-in-a-generation opportunity needs to be grasped”, while Fine Gael senator and Oireachtas abortion committee chairwoman Catherine Noone said “the hypocrisy of this country needs to be faced up to once and for all”.

Independent senator David Norris said pro-life campaigners are “the last sting of a dying wasp”.

However, despite the majority pro-choice views, Independent senator Michael McDowell warned that “the referendum is no longer a foregone conclusion” and the “middle ground of Ireland” will decide the result.

Independent senator Rónán Mullen insisted he and other pro-life senators will not support the bill, pointedly saying: “It’s sad to hear the thin veil of contempt for those who really do believe in all sincerity that there are two human beings to be loved and cherished.”

His view was backed by Fianna Fáil senator Robbie Gallagher and privately by other party colleagues who are understood to have been contacted by party officials over how they will vote.

However, despite the pro-life opposition, it is widely expected that the Seanad will formally back the referendum bill in a vote tonight.

The Seanad debate took place as the Government last night formally published the widely leaked draft heads of bill of the proposed post-referendum 12 weeks abortion access law.

The bill includes:

  • A three-day ‘cooling off’ period for women seeking an abortion;
  • Abortions to be allowed up to 12 weeks;
  • A conscientious objection clause for medics;
  • Guarantees that an abortion will only be allowed after sign-off by two doctors;
  • Abortions legalised in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities, including cases which will lead to the loss of life of the baby shortly after birth;
  • Guarantees that an abortion will only be allowed after sign-off by two doctors;
  • Abortions should be notified to the Health Minister of the day;
  • A woman can seek a formal review of a refusal to allow her to have an abortion;
  • Guarantees that the Government must report to the Dáil once a year as to the workability of the new abortion regime.

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