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Thursday 18 September 2014

Creighton's proposed abortion amendments dismissed

Ed Stack

Published 09/07/2013 | 17:17

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Lucinda Creighton has said she will fight to run for the party again

An attempt by European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton to water down the country's proposed new laws on abortion in limited circumstances has been dismissed.

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With the Dail to vote on the contentious issue tomorrow night, the coalition is bracing itself for a revolt and the loss of Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton.

Up to 10 Government members are thought to be facing expulsion, with four already shown the door, but the passing of the law is not in doubt.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has stuck to a hard line on the divisive reform, demanding full support from his politicians and insisting that the legislation is about "all the women of Ireland".

Ms Creighton tabled a number of last-minute amendments.

She pushed for a rule to allow for the unborn to have legal representation and for speedy and intense assessment and evaluation of women who state they are suicidal.

Ms Creighton said TDs should be able to "stand over our values and stand over our principles" and she has no interest in hiding behind any whip.

"This idea that we should be cosseted or protected from the electorate is bizarre and I disagree profoundly."

Ms Creighton is still pushing for changes to the bill, particularly "pathway to care" for pregnant women who are suicidal.

She has already asked for the clause allowing suicide as grounds for abortion to be removed, but this will not happen.

And she told 'Today with Pat Kenny' on RTE Radio she "would certainly feel much more comfortable" if a pathway to care was included.

However, she did not say if she could vote for the bill if it was.

"I have a grave, grave difficulty putting on the statute books something that has no basis in evidence at all, whatsoever, as a treatment."

She also said members of her local party in Dublin South East "almost to a man and a woman" advised her to do what she felt was best. Fine Gael members in the constituency say they have told Ms Creighton they may not support her to stand for the party again if she votes against the bill tomorrow night.

But she said she is "still holding out some bit of hope" she may be able to support the Government, but added: "If it is the case that I cannot vote for this legislation then I may well be outside the Fine Gael parliamentary party."

She said Fine Gael is breaking pre-election promises, and acknowledged she may lose the whip.

"That's a price I have to be prepared to pay," she said, but added she would have preferred a free vote on issues of conscience.

The leader of Fine Gael's coalition partner Labour, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, said there will be no fundamental or significant last-minute changes to the legislation.

"I think it's regrettable if any member of government parties vote against the legislation," he said.

Dr Anthony McCarthy, consultant psychiatrist at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, said Ms Creighton's scheme would not work with current staff levels and arrangements in Irish hospitals.

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 was drawn up following the death of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian dentist who died in an Irish hospital in October last year after being denied an abortion as she miscarried.

An inquiry found medics missed an early opportunity to terminate on health grounds and unacceptable clinical practice.

The legislation will enshrine a woman's right to a termination if her life is at risk with the most contentious part of the new laws allowing an expectant mother to seek an abortion on the grounds that she is suicidal.

Mass protests by pro-life groups, hate mail and death threats to politicians and intimidation of campaigners have shrouded the weeks and months leading up to the vote.

A group of pro-life activists slept at the front of Leinster House overnight where the vote will take place as late as 10pm tomorrow.

If Ms Creighton votes against the bill she will lose the Fine Gael party whip and her junior ministerial position.

The inclusion of the suicide clause has been the biggest bone of contention, with some opponents arguing it should not serve as legal grounds for abortion, and others claiming abortion in those circumstances could do more damage to a woman's mental health.

Previously, doctors acted under guidance from the Irish Medical Council and law based on a Supreme Court ruling from 1992, known as the X case, that allowed abortion if there was a threat to the mother's life, including suicide.

The case was taken by a 14-year-old rape victim who became pregnant and was refused permission to travel for an abortion.

Ireland was also under pressure after a European Court of Human Rights ruling that a woman in remission with cancer was discriminated against because she was forced to travel overseas for a termination.

Choice campaigners have demanded action and claim Ireland only exports its problem with about 4,000 women registering with an Irish address for an abortion in the UK every year.

Campaigners for abortion to be allowed in other circumstances, such as fatal foetal abnormalities, have been told that it will not be included in any loosening of Ireland's strict regime.

The Government expects the law to be enacted before the Dail breaks for summer on July 18.

Press Association

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