Ireland abortion bill: Europe minister ‘concerned’

Enda Kenny: ruling out suicide clause 'would be counterproductive'. Picture: AFP
Enda Kenny: ruling out suicide clause 'would be counterproductive'. Picture: AFP
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JUNIOR minister Lucinda Creighton has given her clearest indication that she cannot support proposed legislation allowing limited abortion.

The Minister for European Affairs has yet to declare exactly how she will vote, but warned she has grave misgivings on the reforms and will vote with her conscience.

“If this Bill is genuinely to live up to its title... then it should simply aspire to do just that - provide protection to all lives. No more, no less,” Ms Creighton said.

Four of Ms Creighton’s fellow Fine Gael TDs have already confirmed they will not support the legislation - Terence Flanagan, Peter Mathews, Billy Timmins and Brian Walsh.

But it is understood as many as 10 could ultimately vote against it.

Like those who have already set out their stall, Ms Creighton said she was deeply concerned about the proposed changes that will give medical professionals the right to terminate a pregnancy if an expectant mother is at risk of suicide.

The Dublin South East TD - the only member of Government in a ministerial position to express such deep reservations - said the suicide clause should be removed completely.

Taoisdeach Enda Kenny later ruled that out saying it would be counterproductive.

“The reality is, whether people agree with it or not, that the constitutional right on these grounds already exists. If this Bill were to ignore this reality, that right would still exist but in a totally unregulated manner,” he said.

Ms Creighton also called for a term limit on when a pregnant woman could be allowed to have an abortion.

Mr Kenny said it was not necessary as medics will continue to be constitutionally obliged to save both the life of the mother and baby where possible.

A series of votes on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 are expected to begin in the Dail tomorrow with the Government committed to passing the reforms into law before the summer recess.

During a day of final remarks on the legislation before it goes to the committee stage, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he “utterly refutes” suggestions that the Bill might lead to widespread abortion.

He insisted that Ireland would remain one of the safest countries in the world for the unborn and rejected accusations that it was part of a wider plan to liberalise abortion.

“This extremely restrictive Bill is the only proposal that will be brought forward by this Government on this issue,” he said.

The Taoiseach was joined by Justice Minister Alan Shatter who said claims that the suicide clause in the legislation would lead to women pretending to be suicidal to attain a termination were “a slur on the women of Ireland”.

He also said it was “cruel” that women in Ireland who are pregnant with a child with fatal foetal abnormalities are forced to carry until full term.

He said he would continue to support those who travel abroad to seek an abortion in such circumstances.

Ms Creighton sat next to the Taoiseach and Mr Shatter as they outlined their commitment to the legislation.

If she votes against it, she joins the majority of opposition party Fianna Fail and a number of independent TDs.

A fifth Fine Gael colleague - James Bannon - also indicated that he would be unable to support the legislation but the Longford Westmeath TD would not confirm how he will vote.

Mr Bannon warned he could not support legislation that would lead to “abortion on demand”, saying the Bill in its current form, with the inclusion of the suicide clause, could lead to more widespread requests for a termination.

Meanwhile, Ms Creighton said the law should protect women whose lives may be in danger during pregnancy.

“We expect and demand that this be the case. It must also protect lives of babies in pregnancy, otherwise the title will simply be misleading,” she said.

“Ireland is a great country for mothers and babies where the best possible care has been, and continues to be, afforded. This Bill has the potential to change that and to change the compassionate culture of care that we have treasured for so long.”

The junior minister also questioned why no clause had been included in the Bill to allow for legal representation for the unborn.

Ms Creighton, who insisted she does not consider herself a pro-lifer, said the legislation could lead to the introduction of a “hierarchy of human beings” in Irish society and one that dictates who deserves to live.

She added that she assumed Health Minister James Reilly would accept substantive amendments to the Bill before it moves into law.