Saturday 10 December 2016

Our Constitution is not to be overridden by ministerial whims

Conor Power

Published 09/07/2016 | 02:30

Independent TD Mick Wallace Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Independent TD Mick Wallace Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

The unsuccessful proposal by Mick Wallace TD (pictured) to legislate for fatal foetal abnormalities was misguided as a matter of constitutional law. The bill sought to extend the scope of the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act 2013 to permit the termination of pregnancies in tragic cases of fatal foetal abnormalities. An identical amendment had been rejected twice previously.

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This amendment, while laudable in its aim, is not permissible under the current constitutional wording of the right to life of the unborn, as set out in Article 40.3.3. That compels the State to guarantee and, as far as is practicable, to defend the right to life of the unborn.

The core issue is whether a foetus with a fatal abnormality is covered by Article 40.3.3, which was inserted into the Constitution by the Eighth Amendment. This issue has not yet been considered by the courts.

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