Wednesday 13 December 2017

Labour ministers wary FG will delay abortion legislation

Fionnan Sheahan and Nicola Anderson

LABOUR ministers are wary of any attempt by Fine Gael to delay the passing of new abortion laws.

The Government will make a historic decision today to bring in legislation to regulate abortions in limited circumstances where the life of the mother is at risk.

The development comes as a UN human rights investigator said the death of Savita Halappanavar would not have happened in her home country of India.

And a junior minister warned that the Government was limited in how it could act.

"Mark my words, there will be another incident where we will have to come back and face this issue again because what we are about to do is way too narrow," said Labour minister Kathleen Lynch.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny gave a clear indication the Government would decide to opt for legislation with the draft of a bill to be ready soon.

The Cabinet will formally decide on which option to select from the expert group on abortion report finished recently.

The legislation is expected to be ready for debate in the Dail by Easter.

However, Labour figures are concerned Fine Gael will attempt to control opposition in their party by delaying the passing of the law.

Mr Kenny declined to put a date on when the new regime would be in place.

"As I've said to everybody already, I'd like that everybody would have their full participation in the preparation of whatever decision the Government makes or the consequences of that decision and that obviously, if necessary, the Oireachtas will have their opportunity to have their full say.

"So I wouldn't like that it would be left hanging around interminably, that we would deal with this practically and credibly and give everybody the opportunity to have the full say, so don't ask me to put a specific date on it," he said.

Also yesterday, Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy called for a free vote in the Dail on abortion legislation – despite Mr Kenny repeatedly rejecting any suggestion of this happening.

"On this particular issue parliamentarians should be allowed to vote based on what they actually think, and to defend that vote, rather than being forced into a position they do not agree with," Mr Murphy said.

Anand Grover, the UN special rapporteur on the right to health, met with government officials in a private capacity to discuss the controversial abortion issue.

"They are quite receptive," he said. "I know it's a sensitive issue. They are also very sensitive to the criticism as well as other opinions in Ireland and elsewhere."

Mr Grover said abortion should be legal if a pregnancy was adversely impacting on a woman's health, and not just her life.


Mr Grover maintained if treated in India, Ms Halappanavar would never have died. "It was a matter of great concern in India that this happened in Ireland," he said.

Ms Halappanavar died at Galway University Hospital on October 28, 17 weeks into her pregnancy.

She suffered septicaemia following her miscarriage, and two probes were launched into her death.

The statutory inquiry and a HSE clinical inquiry into the death of the 31-year-old dentist are continuing.

Mr Grover, a lawyer, was in Dublin to give a keynote address at a conference and not in his official role.

Irish Independent

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