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Abortion debate continues in Ireland

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Auveen Woods
WVoN co-editor

Legislation to provide for limited access to abortion in Ireland was defeated in Parliament on April 19th by 109 votes to 20.

Socialist Party TD (member of parliament) Clare Daly introduced the Bill, entitled Medical Treatment (Termination of Pregnancy in Case of Risk to Life of Pregnant Woman) Bill 2012.

The Bill would have legislated on the “X-Case“, a 20-year-old Irish Supreme Court ruling that women should be allowed an abortion where the mother’s life is in danger.

As previously reported by WVoN, the failure of successive Irish governments to legislate on the findings of the Court and allow for abortion where the life of a mother is under physical or mental threat eventually led the European Court of Human Rights to rule against Ireland in the A,B,C case (2010).

Introducing the Bill the day before the Dáil (Irish Parliament) vote, Ms Daly said that the debate was not about whether to allow abortion in Ireland or not.

“Irish abortion exists,’’ she said. “It just does not take place in Ireland. And that is simply not acceptable in 2012.’’

It is estimated that 4,000 Irish women travel abroad for abortions annually.

Emotions were running high on the night of the Parliamentary debate as four women who had gone public with their stories addressed the Parliament, describing their experiences of aborting much wanted pregnancies.

All the women were forced to travel abroad for abortions after developing pregnancies with fatal foetal abnormalities.

Abortion is legal in Ireland where there is a real and substantive risk to the life of the mother, but due to the absence of any legislation or guidelines none are ever performed and consultants are often hesitant to discuss termination at all.

In the case of a fatal foetal abnormality if there is no risk to the life of the mother, as in the case of the four women, people must still travel abroad for an abortion.

There was controversy during the debate as one Senator accused the four women of having a “wider agenda”, while TD Michelle Mulherin argued against the Bill because she believed it was being used as a form of birth control by some Irish women travelling to England.

Ms Mulherin of the Fine Gael party who is from the same constituency as Prime Minister Enda Kenny also said that “Fornication is probably the single most likely cause of unwanted pregnancies in this country”.

The government had earlier signalled its intention to vote against the Bill despite its coalition partner, Labour, passing a motion supporting a more liberal abortion regime.

Minister for Health Dr James O’Reilly said the government opposed the Bill implementing the X case ruling to provide limited access to abortion because it is waiting for an expert group to report in June on implementing the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling.

In response to comments by Independent TD Mick Wallace that no action had been taken on the issue by six successive governments Dr Reilly told the Dáil “this will not be the seventh government”.

There is hope that the government’s expert group may advise going beyond the “threat to the life of the mother” as the the Bill proposed by Ms Daly dictated.

If the Bill introduced by Ms Daly had gone through it would not have addressed the plight of the four women whose babies had fetal abnormalities and may have made it more difficult for more liberal abortion legislation to be introduced in the future.

The abortion debate continues in Ireland.

  1. Michelle Mulherin said the bill was premature, as did her fellow Government colleagues. Pity the author of the above article didn’t take the time to read her speech and what she actually said instead of just rehashing sensationalist coverage that misrepresented the speaker’s view point

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