Irish abortion bill gets final approval from Senate; all eyes turn to president
DUBLIN, July 24, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Tuesday, the Irish Senate gave final approval to the Fine Gael/Labour abortion bill by a 39-14 vote. If the bill is signed by President Michael Higgins, it will allow direct abortions at all stages of pregnancy when the mother’s life is at risk, including if she threatens suicide.
The suicide provision in particular as been singled out by critics, who say that not only is there no medical evidence that abortion is an effective treatment for suicidality, but argue that the provision is wide open for abuse and paves the way for abortion on demand.
While the president has the power to delay the bill by referring it to the Supreme Court for legal examination in light of the country’s constitutional protections for the unborn, there is little expectation Higgins will make that move.
Pro-life groups have called the passage of the bill “a stain on the nation” and have vowed to punish both Fine Gale and the Labour Party for forcing it through. Niamh Ui Bhriain of the Life Institute said the bill has been rammed through Parliament in opposition to both “medical evidence and public opinion.”
Critics have said that by passing a bill that contains no term limits, Ireland will go, at the stroke of a presidential pen, from being one of the most pro-life countries in the world, to one of the world’s most permissive. All western countries that have legalized abortion, except Canada, have retained some restrictions based on the gestational age of the child.
“Abortion is a medieval solution to an unexpected pregnancy,” Ui Bhriain said. “It has no place in modern medicine or a civilised society.”
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She reminded government of the 60,000 people who rallied this month against the bill, the largest political rally on any topic in recent Irish history. She added that over 100,000 have signed a pledge never to vote again for Fine Gael, who had made explicit promises in the last election campaign never to legislate for abortion.
A spokesman for Pro-Life Campaign said, “The road back will not be easy but the strength and resolve of the pro-life movement which has emerged in recent months is the kind of foundation that will ensure this unjust law will be overturned.”
Prime Minister Enda Kenny has responded to pro-life activists by insisting that his bill does not change, but merely clarifies the law, which already allows medical procedures that may unintentionally cause the death of an unborn child if they are necessary to save the life of the mother. But experts have pointed to wording in the bill that will allow doctors, for the first time, to take actions that are directly intended to bring about the death of the unborn child. The Irish constitution requires that the mother and child be treated with equal consideration, and medical guidance requires doctors to treat them both as patients.
Meanwhile the promises by the government that this is as far as legalization of abortion wwill go were more short-lived than even pro-life activists had predicted. Within 24 hours of the Senate vote, Justice Minister Alan Shatter told media that the surviving restrictions on abortion are “a great cruelty” and expressed his hope that a coming referendum would widen them to include abortion for disabled children and the children of rape victims.
Shatter, who in recent years has also told the Catholic Church that priests should be prosecuted for refusing to break the seal of confession, said that refusing abortion to rape victims is “an unacceptable cruelty” and said the state will ultimately have to “live up to its responsibility.”
Shatter noted that the government is prevented from further liberalisation by the constitution, which can only be changed by a referendum.
“I personally believe it is a great cruelty that our law creates a barrier to a woman in circumstances where she has a fatal foetal abnormality being able to have a pregnancy terminated, and that according to Irish law any woman in those circumstances is required to carry a child to full term knowing it has no real prospect of any nature of survival following birth,” he said.
“I think it’s unfortunate that this is an issue we cannot address. Clearly many women who find themselves in these circumstances address this issue by taking the plane or the boat to England. Despite what we have been able to do within this legislation, this will continue to be a British solution to an Irish problem.”