Referendum on abortion laws is needed – Lynch
Published 23/12/2012 | 05:00
Junior Health Minister says response will be 'so restrictive' it won't protect a mother's life
Labour Junior Health Minister Kathleen Lynch has warned that a new referendum will be needed to bring any degree of finality to the ongoing series of crises that are being sparked by Ireland's current abortion regime.
The minister's warning is likely to provoke a furore within the pro-life wing of Fine Gael that is already suspicious of Labour's long-term intentions over abortion.
But, speaking to the Sunday Independent, Ms Lynch claimed the Government's response to the findings of the expert group on abortion will be "so restrictive'' it will not even cover the protection of women suffering from similar conditions to Savita Halappanavar.
The combination of the tragic death of Ms Halappanavar and the release of the expert group report on abortion has led to increasing public concern over the safety of pregnant Irish women faced with life-threatening conditions.
However, while the Government's final proposals have not yet been seen, Ms Lynch said of the expected mix of legislation and regulations that if "people think this will deal with the issues that face women every day of the week, that is not the case".
Instead, she noted that the current constitutional and legal restrictions mean "it will be so restrictive it will not do what people out there expect it to do".
"I don't think it will cover the Savita case. It will be very restrictive in terms of defining what constitutes a threat to the mother," she said.
The constitutional restrictions on abortion means that the Government's response to the expert group can only deal with the issue of suicide rather than other complex problems such as rape, incest, the variety of issues raised by the A B and C cases or women carrying foetuses that will not survive beyond childbirth.
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This, she warns, means any response can't "cover events that provide a threat to the health of a mother that may develop into a threat to the life of the mother". The minister cited as examples issues such as high blood pressure or blood poisoning. "These are not small threats and they can swiftly escalate," she said.
Last week, in the Dail, Ms Lynch warned: "Mark my words there will be another incident, and we will have to return and confront this issue again."
Speaking to the Sunday Independent Ms Lynch repeated her warning that "there are always in pregnancy going to be what lawyers call hard cases. It is inevitable, and, it is equally inevitable that the current or future legislation will not cover them."
This, she said, means that "the only way we can fully deal with the issue is to revisit it in a referendum".
Though the minister's views are likely to be viewed with suspicion by the pro-life wing of Fine Gael she stressed her views were not informed by a pro-choice position.
"I am very much middle of the road. I don't chose to judge people who have to make difficult decisions but I also think the bishops and the church do have a right to be heard,'' she said.
And she warned that whilst a referendum would represent a "mature" response, the difficulties posed by any referendum on such an "emotive issue" was epitomised by the Children's Referendum where "we almost didn't pass a referendum that said children would be heard and protected".