I'm not a fanatic or a fundamentalist – Creighton
JUNIOR Minister Lucinda Creighton has made an astonishing intervention into the abortion debate with a deeply personal account of why she is not a "fanatic or a fundamentalist".
She is one of the Fine Gael backbenchers who are concerned that the forthcoming legislation could "open the floodgates" by including the risk of suicide as grounds for an abortion.
Ms Creighton said that she was worried about allowing for abortion where a woman was suicidal because 113 consultant psychiatrists had said that such a step had "no basis in medical evidence".
"I have been accused repeatedly of being some sort of a fanatic or fundamentalist. Anyone who knows me – my friends, my family, my colleagues – knows that is simply nonsense," she said.
And she explained how she had changed from being a supporter of abortion in college to a firm opponent now.
"When I was a student, I would have regarded myself as liberal on the issue, being in favour of abortion. I suppose I simply bought into the accepted notion that a foetus is simply an extension of a woman and not a person," she said.
But Ms Creighton said she had come to believe that she was wrong.
"And I don't change my view lightly," she said.
She produced a 1,300-word blog on her personal website about abortion in response to a radio column by journalist Olivia O'Leary, which had called on people to "kick the Taliban out of our Constitution".
Ms Creighton said she personally considered the debate to be about the human rights of women and of their unborn babies.
"There is a great irony in the fact that we throw all the resources in the world (and rightly so) at saving the life of a premature baby born at 23 or 24 weeks, and yet some may consider the abortion of that baby, at the same stage, to be right and just. I don't".
She also said she did not come to this debate with any religious or ideological 'hang-up'. "Like 85pc of the population I have been brought up as, and describe myself as a Catholic. I am not a particularly devout one and I am not diligent in attending religious ceremonies. So I suppose I am like most Irish Catholics in that respect," she said.
Ms Creighton said she accepted there was a need to provide clarity for doctors so that they could legitimately defend the lives of pregnant women without fear of legal or criminal sanction.
But her reservations about including the risk of suicide as a grounds for abortion is a sign of the difficulty that Taoiseach Enda Kenny will have in getting many Fine Gael backbenchers to support the Government's legislation.
Fine Gael and Labour are currently still in dispute over how many doctors should be involved in approving an abortion where there is a risk of suicide.