Monday 18 March 2019

'Pro-life mob' threatened to cut TD's throat

Independent TD John Halligan
Independent TD John Halligan

Ed Carty

A TD has been threatened that their throat would be cut and others spat at and verbally abused as the Government moves to bring in abortion laws, it has been claimed.

John Halligan claimed that a "pro-life mob" is ambushing politicians late at night at their homes and posting hate mail and obscene literature through letterboxes.


The Independent TD made the claims after the Government published its legislation on abortion which will be put into law in the coming weeks.


"There have been a number of disturbing reports in the last weeks about the level of abuse TDs are receiving," he said.


Around midnight last night the Government published the wording on when doctors can act to allow a termination.


Yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny revealed that opponents of the reforms have branded him a murderer and sent plastic foetuses and letters written in blood.


Mr Halligan called on Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore to condemn the Catholic Church for not criticising anti-abortion campaigners who attack politicians.


"I think, for example in respect of some of the statements from church leaders, I think they are exaggerated about this legislation and I think we should not lose sight of what we are doing," Mr Halligan said.


"Of course I agree that when people make protests and disagree they should do so respectfully. Obviously they should not engage in harassment of public representatives."


Ireland's Catholic bishops reiterated their opposition to the abortion reform this week and warned that it was a defining moment for the country.


Additions to the legislation include a requirement for annual reports on the number of terminations being carried out and a broadening of the category of the two psychiatrists allowed to decide whether a pregnant woman's life is at risk from suicide.


Health Minister Dr James Reilly will also be given the power to suspend any of the 24 institutions deemed to be operating inappropriately.


There is no limitation or time-frame on what stage a termination can be carried out at and no "sunset clause" under which the legislation would lapse by a certain date unless renewed.


Doctors will be allowed to refuse to carry out the procedure on grounds of conscientious objection.


The Pro-Life Campaign claimed the legislation is "a million miles away from good medicine, from the kind of life-saving intervention which everybody supports".


Spokeswoman Caroline Simons said: "One of the most regrettable features of this debate has been the corruption of language. The Taoiseach and Cabinet ministers continue, with no hint of shame, to use words like 'restrictive' and 'life-saving' to describe their plans.


"But these words are meaningless and empty. The only thing that matters is what the law actually permits and what it permits is abortion on wide-ranging grounds."


Meanwhile an opinion poll for the Irish Times shows that three-quarters of voters approve of the proposed Government legislation and 52% are in favour of allowing abortion in cases of threatened suicide.


If enacted, the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 will legalise abortion where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including the threat of suicide.


The Bill aims to legislate for the X case judgment from Ireland's Supreme Court, which found abortion is legal if there is a real and substantial risk.


The case was taken by a 14-year-old rape victim who became pregnant and was refused permission to travel for an abortion.


The proposed law states that one doctor will be required to certify that a termination is justified in the case of medical emergencies. In such emergencies, the doctor involved will be required to certify their actions within 72 hours.


Two medics must agree and certify where there is a physical threat to the life of the mother and the termination of pregnancy is the only treatment that will save the mother's life. If possible, the woman's GP will also be consulted.


In a case of a real and substantial risk to a woman's life arising from suicide, the assessment process will involve three specialists, including one obstetrician/gynaecologist, and two psychiatrists, including one specialist with experience of dealing with the mental health of pregnant women, must jointly and unanimously agree and certify that the termination of pregnancy is the only treatment that will save the mother's life.


In such cases, where feasible, the woman's GP will be consulted.


Review committees must make a decision in less than seven days, the proposed law states, and anyone caught intentionally destroying unborn human life will face up to 14 years in prison.


The Government committed itself to legislate on abortion after the death of a dentist who suffered a miscarriage in hospital. The long-awaited clinical report by the Health Service Executive into the care given to Savita Halappanavar will be published later today.


The European Court of Human Rights also previously found that Ireland discriminated against a woman in remission with cancer who was forced to travel overseas for a termination.


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