A DEBATE on abortion rights at Fingal County Council descended into near farce as councillors spent a third of the monthly meeting arguing over the wording of a motion on the controversial and sensitive subject of abortion.
Back in November, councillors passed a motion calling on the Government to legislate for the X Case. That motion came to the council floor just hours before news of the death of Savita Halappanavar broke and was passed with more than half of the county's councillors absent from the chamber. This month, Cllr Ruth Coppinger (SP), returned with a new motion on the subject, this time in the wake of the tragic death of the Indian mother and the subsequent debate on abortion that the incident sparked. The motion was much broader this time with Cllr Coppinger calling for abortion rights not only where the life of the mother was at risk but also her health and in cases of rape and incest. In a three hour meeting, her motion sparked a one hour debate that brought a lot of shouting, political manouevering, five amendments and several recesses to calm frayed tempers but ultimately resulted in a much changed motion being passed that did not differ hugely from the one already agreed by councillors in November. Cllr Coppinger's motion had no less than five amendments thrown at it during the hour-long debate and in the end, the amended motion was passed calling for the Government to extend abortion rights where the life of the mother was in danger. Risk to the mother's health and cases of rape and incest were removed from the original motion as was any link to the still under investigation case of Savita Halappanavar (left). Cllr Coppinger protested strongly against the amendments to her original motion, complaining that 'amendments are being thrown around here like confetti' while her Socialist Party colleague, Cllr Matthew Waine said the ' heart had been ripped out' of the original motion. Regardless of those objections, the amended motion found favour with a majority of councillors at the meeting, many of whom felt that Cllr Coppinger's motion was too broad. Some 13 councillors voted for the amended motion with only three voting against and four abstentions. This time around only four councillors were absent from the chamber when the vote was taken.