DUBLIN, Ireland, July 8, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The Irish Republic’s Dail, or lower house, has decisively voted down a private member’s bill to allow abortion on demand when an unborn child has a “fatal foetal abnormality”—something medical and legal experts say cannot be defined.
Though ordinary Dail members (or deputies) defeated the Protection of Life in Pregnancy (Amendment) (Fatal Foetal Abnormalities) (No 2) Bill by a clear-cut 95 to 45 margin, the issue seriously divided the shaky coalition cabinet ruling Ireland since the February election.
Pro-life groups greeted the outcome with satisfaction, while expressing dismay over the tenor of the debate in the Dail and the Oireachtas (or joint committees of the lower and upper houses).
“We are very pleased with today’s result,” said Cora Sherlock, the head of Pro Life Campaign. “But what the debate in the last few weeks has shown very clearly is that some members of the Oireachtas are spending far too much time talking about abortion and spending no time on putting better resources in place to provide positive alternatives for families.”
Tracy Harkins of Every Life Counts said, “We have endured two weeks of listening to our children being described as ‘fatal abnormalities’ and it is simply appalling to see an Irish TD argue that unborn babies with a severe disability should be denied their right to life simple because of that disability.”
Harkins noted that she and other parents of disabled children have had to campaign fiercely for better care for their children, whom the defeated bill would allowed to be killed in the womb. “The debate has been so disturbing, misleading and upsetting to be honest. My daughter Kathleen Rose is aged 9 and living with Trisomy 13, something campaigners wrongly call a ‘fatal, foetal abnormality.’ She is the light of our home, not a life to be discarded.”
The bill’s mover, Michael Wallace, admitted he never expected the bill to pass, but he hoped the debate would “add urgency to the fact that there’s at least four or five women every week in Ireland having to travel out of the country to have a fatal foetal abnormality dealt with. They are suffering something terrible.” (In fact, that is the number getting abortions in England and Scotland for all reasons.)
Several cabinet members from the Independent Alliance voted for the bill, while those belonging to Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael voted against it. Also from Fine Gael, Attorney General Maire Whelan instructed Cabinet that the bill violated Amendment Eight of the Constitution, which protects the unborn child and allows abortion only to save the mother. The county’s chief medical officer also advised the cabinet the bill’s invocation of “fatal foetal abnormalities” was unworkable because the term was medically meaningless.
Kenny is reported to have allowed his Independent Alliance cabinet members to breach cabinet solidarity this once, but hinted they would be kicked out if they did so again.
Most members of Fianna Fail, the second biggest party in the Dail and also a centrist group, opposed the bill while Labour and Sinn Fein supported it.
Niamh Uí Bhriain, head of the Life Institute, said the debate over the bill was revelatory. “It is now clear from the statements of experts such as the Chief Medical Officer that the terms ‘incompatible with life’ and ‘fatal, foetal abnormality’ are not medical terms and should not be used in drafting legislation or considering changes to the abortion law.”
At a moral level, she added, “It is increasingly evident that abortion campaigners have no compunction in attacking the right to life of babies with disabilities.” However, her group’s campaign efforts with the ordinary Irish people has revealed “that more and more people are becoming uncomfortable with this push to attack the most vulnerable babies of all.”
Nonetheless, the Irish Times, regarded by Irish pro-life advocates as hopelessly biased against them, released a poll this week showing 67 percent support for allowing abortion in cases of “fatal foetal abnormalities” or rape. Cora Sherlock called the poll “disgracefully loaded…even by the standards of the Irish Times.”
Sherlock complained that the poll did not consider the experience of mothers who kept their disabled babies. “There are thousands of people alive today as a direct result of the Eighth Amendment but the Irish Times has no interest or curiosity in exploring this reality.”