Co-authored with John Jalsevac

DUBLIN, April 20, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pro-life leaders in Ireland are celebrating after the defeat of a private member’s bill last week that proposed to legalise abortion and impose criminal penalties on pro-life counseling.

The Medical Treatment Bill, sponsored by Socialist Party TD Clare Daly, would have legalized abortion in cases where the woman’s life was in danger – including if she threatened suicide - and imposed a year in prison and £2000 in fines for those who spoke to abortion-minded women to offer alternatives to abortion. Further, it proposed to allow doctors to perform abortions without a woman’s consent and for underage girls without parental consent.

The bill was defeated by 111 votes to 20 in the Dail.

Pro-life advocates said the bill was based on a false premise that women in Ireland are being denied life-saving medical treatments in pregnancy because of the abortion ban.

Dr Ruth Cullen of Pro-Life Campaign said that the bill “dishonestly creates the impression that women in Ireland are currently being denied necessary medical treatments in pregnancy because of the absence of abortion here.”

“The fact, however, is that women receive outstanding care when pregnant in this country and Ireland, without abortion, is internationally recognized as one of the safest countries in the world for pregnant women, safer than places like England where abortion is available up to birth.”

In 1992 a Supreme Court ruling, the X-case, found that abortion should be available when there is a “substantial risk to the life of the mother” including from a threat of suicide. The ruling, however, was not sufficient grounds to overturn the 1983 constitutional amendment guaranteeing the unborn legal protection.

Minister for Health Dr. James Reilly rejected the recent bill, but suggested that the current legal situation would not endure, saying that the Dail should wait for a report by a government-appointed expert group on implementing the 2010 European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling in the ABC case. Pro-life advocates have warned that several experts on the government’s panel are on record as supporting abortion or the use of living human embryos in research. 

The Minister of State for Health, Roisín Shortall, thanked Daly for bringing the bill forward, saying the government is committed to the “expeditious implementation” of the ECHR judgment, which demanded that Ireland change its laws to accommodate the X-case.

“Many years have been lost in respect of the commitment to legislate for the X-case,” Shortall said.

“As soon as the expert group reports at the end of June, the Government is absolutely committed to taking action in this area,” she said.

Niamh Ui Bhriain, the head of the Dublin-based Life Institute, told LifeSiteNews.com that while only the Labour Party has openly advocated legalisation of abortion, within government there is a strong, though quiet, faction that is working towards abolishing legal protections for the unborn.

She said that the defeat of the bill had more to do with politics than principles, with politicians realising that public opinion is strongly against legalisation. She warned, however, that the Labour Party will keep up pressure on the government for legalisation and that pro-life people must remain vigilant.

“We’ll be working with Youth Defence, Precious Life and other pro-life groups on a series of high-profile nationwide campaigns to make sure that the pro-life majority is alerted and that abortion is not legalised in Ireland,” Ui Bhriain said.

Rebecca Roughneen of Youth Defence said that lead coalition partner Fine Gael had given a public commitment during the last election campaign that it would not legalise abortion in Ireland.

“The party has been given a mandate to oppose the introduction of abortion, and attempts to break that pro-life promise would cause justifiable anger amongst the public,” she said.