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Saturday 23 March 2019

Amendments to abortion bill defeated in Dáil

Health Minister Simon Harris
Health Minister Simon Harris
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

The abortion legislation faces further debate at report stage in the Dáil next week piling pressure on the January deadline for services.

The legislation is making its way through the Houses of the Oireachtas and despite hopes that report stage would conclude last night after three days of debate it will now return to the Dáil floor next week.

Some 65 amendments have been proposed to the legislation, sparking a lengthy debate.

A number of amendments were defeated last night including one proposing that abortions are not sought on grounds of race, sex or disability and another provision seeking pain relief to be administered to a fetus in the womb ahead of a termination.

Health Minister Simon Harris rejected the amendment relating to grounds of sex, race or disability.

“The legislation does not provide for termination of pregnancy to be carried out on the grounds of sex, race or disability,” he said, describing the amendment as “entirely unworkable”.

It was designed, he suggested, to “to stigmatise women in crisis pregnancies by allowing its proposers to suggest that these are their motives”.

There were heated scenes in the Dáil amid accusations of filibustering.

Dublin West TD Ruth Coppinger accused a group of pro-life TDs of trying to delay the legislation, urging that efforts be made to conclude the debate as quickly as possible.

“There’s women travelling... people have had it up to here and two thirds of the people voted and that mandate has to be respected,” she said.

However, deputies Danny Healy Rae and Mattie McGrath - who are part of the group who have tabled several proposed changes to the bill - rejected the suggestion that they were seeking to filibuster the legislation.

An argument across the floor between Mr McGrath and Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell also saw the Ceann Comhairle threaten to suspend the Dáil as the Tipperary TD accused Ms O’Connell of leaving the chamber to speak to the media instead of listening to his contributions and those of his colleagues.

Ms O’Connell rejected this and asked that it was withdrawn.

The timeline for the passage of the legislation to regulate for the termination of pregnancies requires the Bill to go to the Seanad before the Christmas recess.

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