DUBLIN, July 19, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An independent TD has said he was kicked off a parliamentary health committee for wanting to make small changes to the abortion bill.
Denis Naughten, the TD, who left Fine Gael in 2011, told media outlets on Friday that he was “saddened” to be “expelled” from the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children examining the Protection of Life During Pregnancy bill. The bill is currently being examined by a Senate committee.
Naughten had called for a vote at committee stage and asked that the unborn child be granted legal representation on the proposed three-member abortion panel.
He had also asked that women be granted the right to legal representation when facing the panel while “making her case for a termination.” He said, “I have no regret for doing so but I believe this parliament will be the worse for not allowing scrutiny of its decisions.”
No reason had been given for his removal from the committee, Naughten said, but he added that he thought it was related to his request for a guarantee of legal representation for women.
In comments to The Journal, Naughten said that Health Minister James Reilly had told him that women would never “be forced to go alone,” before a panel. But Naughten had pressed for a clause to be inserted into the bill to that effect.
He criticized Prime Minister Enda Kenny, saying, “He has been very iron-fisted in relation to it. I suppose that’s his prerogative. It’s important that alternative voices put forward in relation to legislation should be listened to and not penalized.”
He added, “I’m disappointed that a government with the biggest majority since the foundation of the state feels that it must stamp out any scrutiny of its decisions.”
Cora Sherlock of the Pro-life Campaign told the Irish Mirror that the government’s chief whip Paul Kehoe was behaving in an “autocratic and heavy-handed” way.
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She said, ”It is clear that the government is not prepared to tolerate any dissent at all on the abortion issue.”
“As a member of the Health Committee, Deputy Naughten raised very serious and legitimate concerns over the fact that the government is introducing a law to allow for abortion in the case of threatened suicide, even though there is not a shred of evidence that abortion is a treatment for suicidal feelings,” Sherlock said.
“It is unacceptable that the Government is behaving in such an autocratic and heavy-handed manner in an attempt to drive alternative voices out of the debate,” Sherlock concluded.
Kehoe has denied the claim, calling it “absolute rubbish” but Kenny, as head of Fine Gael, has dealt swiftly and summarily with party TDs who have opposed the bill, and has persistently battled all attempts to give TDs a free vote.
Kenny’s government has dealt harshly with any who have opposed or tried to alter the bill. Following the vote on the bill in the lower house, four Fine Gael TDs were immediately ousted from the party, being ordered to clear out their offices within 24 hours.
Former Europe Minister Lucinda Creighton was also booted from the party for her refusal to support legalization of abortion. Creighton had moved that the notorious “suicide” clauses be removed from the bill.