Monday 23 September 2019

Kenny rules out abortion option for rape victims and new referendum

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has ruled out allowing abortion for women who have been raped or where the unborn child has a fatal foetal abnormality.

Ruling out a new referendum on the issue, Mr Kenny said the people had already voted in previous referendums and had provided provision for the right to travel for abortions.

He said terminations would only be allowed where there was a real or substantial threat to the woman's life.

It comes amid increased tensions over the witnesses to appear before the Oireachtas Health Committee hearings, which start at the end of next week. A submission to include evidence from women who have had experience of abortion has already been turned down.

Yesterday Mr Kenny was questioned in the Dail by Independent Waterford TD John Halligan, who said it was "warped justice" that women who were raped could be jailed for 14 years for having an abortion under the new legislation.

Mr Halligan called for a referendum on this and the fatal-foetal abnormality issue, but Mr Kenny ruled it out.

The Taoiseach said the Government's bill was about dealing with a Supreme Court decision in the X Case and said there are many opinions in the Dail on the issue.

"The people in the country voted on this in the past and they made their intentions very clear in that the right to travel was given specifically to women," Mr Kenny said.

Mr Halligan said the Taoiseach's answers were from "20 or 30 years ago" and asked him what if it was "your daughter or your mother" who had been raped but could not get an abortion.

"You might be aware of this, 17 women who became pregnant after being raped had abortions last year," Mr Halligan said.

Legislation

Mr Kenny also said the abortion legislation could be changed when the Oireachtas Health Committee completed its hearings on the heads of the bill.

The committee met last night to discuss how it would conduct its hearings, with a draft list of witnesses given to members. Committee members will meet again tomorrow to discuss the list of witnesses once more.

However, there are already tensions about the experts and groups to appear before the committee to give evidence.

Fine Gael senator Fidelma Healy-Eames, who says she has difficulties with the abortion bill, wrote to committee chairman Jerry Buttimer, asking that women who have had abortions be asked to appear before TDs and senators.

Ms Healy-Eames said: "Ideally this should include women from both sides of the argument, women who regret and women do not regret their decisions."

However, even though this was tabled by TDs like Mattie McGrath and Fine Gael's Regina Doherty, it was not accepted by the committee. Ms Healy-Eames said she was "very disappointed" by the decision.

Miriam Donohoe

Irish Independent

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