Saturday 16 December 2017

I'm Fine Gael to the core, not just some fly-by-night blow-in, says Creighton

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

ALTHOUGH it is likely to fall on deaf ears, Lucinda Creighton is appealing to Enda Kenny to remove the suicide grounds from the abortion legislation.

In an interview with the Irish Independent, the European Affairs Minister says she is not opposed to legislation that would bring "legal certainty and clarity" for pregnant women in a medical emergency or where the life of a mother is at risk.

She believes many of the TDs opposing the legislation would support the bill if the suicide grounds were removed.

"I suppose my message (to the Taoiseach) is that there is a solution to be found. I think we can all agree that there is a need to give legal certainty and clarity. The vast majority, if not all of the Oireachtas, would vote in favour of that.

"But for people like me and, I think, many of my colleagues, we have grave concerns about enshrining something that is simply not a treatment for women in legislation. I think that we have to listen to the medical experts on this and I am appealing to him (the Taoiseach) to do that," she says.

Come Wednesday night, Ms Creighton will have to decide what way to vote, most likely against the party she has served since she was a teenager, losing the Fine Gael whip and giving up her junior ministry.

"My conscience, as for anybody in this country, is something that I can't deviate from. I think it is unfortunate that people are having to wrestle between their loyalty to their party and their loyalty to what they believe is right.

"I don't think those two things should come into conflict. I am a Fine Gael person. I have been a member of Fine Gael since I was 18-years-old. I have canvassed in every constituency in the country.

"I am not some fly-by-night blow-in to Fine Gael.

"I am somebody who is Fine Gael to the core and this legislation, unfortunately, is not in line with my values or the values of my party, which were clearly espoused before the last election and, indeed, before many previous elections."

Ms Creighton has tabled a series of amendments to the legislation, which would eliminate the threat of suicide as grounds for an abortion.

She is seeking to provide a "multi-disciplinary care plan" and therapy for suicidal women seeking an abortion – and to have them admitted to hospital for daycare if necessary.

Another of her amendments calls on the Attorney General to represent the unborn if a woman is appealing a refusal of an abortion request. And she also wants time limits to be put in place so that an abortion could not be carried out in the late stages of pregnancy.

The minister denies it's too late to seek such radical changes. "No, no, I think this is the only opportunity that the vast majority of TDs have had to put down amendments to the bill.

"The crucial amendment I have tabled is to provide an alternative to the current Section 9, the suicide clause, and to put it in legislation that if a woman is suicidal that there is a clear pathway to care, which is accepted best practice in all of the modern world.

"It is something that is supported by the vast majority of psychiatrists. It is the evidence-based way to treat someone that is suicidal, with the least harm and the most probable positive outcomes.

"My concern at the moment is that the only solution provided in the legislation for someone who is suicidal is to provide an abortion, and that is not a treatment.

"There is no evidence to support the idea that that can help to treat somebody who is suicidal, whereas this clinical pathway to care is accepted best practice," she said.

Ms Creighton is not objecting to the Government drafting the abortion legislation – just how far it goes.

"The (European) Court of Human Rights has required us to give clarity to women in respect of their rights in Ireland, under current law, and I think that Sections 7 and 8 do a reasonably good job of achieving that.

"It sets out that, in a medical emergency or where the life of a mother is at risk, that a termination can be carried out as a consequence of all efforts to save a mother's life.

"And, of course, that's the right thing. I'm a woman and I certainly don't want any woman to have their life risked via pregnancy in this country.

"But I don't think that that stands up in respect of the suicide clause. All of the evidence suggests that it is not a treatment.

"And I think that it would be bizarre for us to enshrine in legislation something that the vast majority of medical experts in the field tell us is wrong.

"It is like saying that we put into legislation a treatment for cancer that all of the cancer experts in the country say is not treatment at all. It's as simple as that.

"So let's actually listen to the evidence that was presented at the health committee hearings in the Oireachtas.

"Let's listen to what the psychiatrists who came out today said and let's actually put an evidence-based solution that really, genuinely, is about protecting life in pregnancy, and that's what this bill is supposed to be about," she says.

Fr Vincent Twomey

Irish Independent

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