European Court forced FG to change stance on abortion, says Hogan
ENVIRONMENT Minister Phil Hogan claims Fine Gael was forced to change its position on abortion following a December 2011 ruling from the European Court of Human Rights.
Mr Hogan said the party would have preferred to use "regulations and medical guidelines" to set out directions to doctors in the event of a threat of the life of the mother.
But the court ruling in the ABC Case made a "major change" to what the party expected it could do before the general election.
The minister said the concerns of backbenchers opposed to the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013, published this week, would be addressed during meetings of the Oireachtas Health Committee over the coming weeks.
The legislation would come before the Dail by June, he said.
Mr Hogan was director of elections during the 2011 General Election when the party volunteered to issue a statement to pro-life groups saying the party's opposition to the legalisation of abortion remained.
He also signed a letter clarifying the party's position the weekend before the poll, saying, "Fine Gael's opposition to the legalisation of abortion stands".
Yesterday, Mr Hogan said the December 2011 ruling from the ECHR in the ABC Case was a "major change" in what the party could do.
The court ruled that Ireland's failure to implement the constitutional right to a lawful abortion when a woman's life was at risk violated Article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights.
"We have to comply with the law and the ECHR," he said.
"The ABC Case made a major change in what we expected we could do before the last election. We are now faced with the legal challenges from the ECHR and we have to deal with that in a legislative way instead of through regulations and medical guidelines which we thought could be done before the election.
"There's a good bit of time to go to assuage some of the concerns (of backbenchers).
"The Government has put in place a very strong position in terms of complying with the law, ensuring the safety of the mother in times of great difficulty during pregnancy while also being mindful of the constitutional requirement that the rights of the unborn have to be adhered to."
Mr Hogan added he did not believe the U-turn would lead to a backlash during next summer's local elections.
"People will largely be voting on the economy and jobs and disposable income and getting out of the economic difficulties rather than this," he said.
"At the end of the day, the people of Ireland recognise we're in deep difficulties economically, we're making good progress to get back into the markets and return our economic sovereignty and that will be recognised by the people in the local and European elections."