Taoiseach says he does not intend to have another referendum on abortion

Friday 26 April 2013 11.08
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Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he did not agree with claims that legislation was not possible
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he did not agree with claims that legislation was not possible
Alex White said the legislation that will eventually be brought in will be quite restrictive
Alex White said the legislation that will eventually be brought in will be quite restrictive

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he does not intend to have another referendum on the issue of abortion rights in Ireland.

Speaking in Dundalk this afternoon, Mr Kenny said the Government set out its formal decision on the issue in December, and its intention to deal with the ABC case by way of legislation and regulations.

The ABC case refers to a challenge by three women to Ireland's abortion laws at the European Court of Human Rights,

Mr Kenny said he did not agree with claims that legislation was not possible.

He said the law on abortion is not being changed, but is being codified.

The law when clarified will deal strictly with the Constitution and stay within the existing law, he said.

It will deal with the X Case and will do so without bringing any new rights here, he added.

It is a complex matter and one that requires sensitivity and understanding, Mr Kenny said.

Asked about the emerging shape of the draft bill, Mr Kenny said that in the preparation of any piece of legislation there are numerous drafts that are prepared.

All of these are meaningless until the draft of a bill is presented to Government by the sponsoring minister and approved by Government, he said.

Asked how many party representatives he expected to lose over the issue, he said he wanted to assure everybody that they will have their opportunity to have their full say.

He said the new laws will clarify and confirm existing rights and ensure the life of the mother and the life of the unborn are given the status that they have under the Constitution.

No woman is entitled to have an abortion by choice, unless there is a real and substantial risk to her life as distinct to her health, he said.

Mr Kenny said the Government is now in the process of working to reach agreement on the heads for the bill to be approved by the Government, and sent to committee for consideration and debate.

He said he would like to think that it can be dealt with and enacted before the house rises for the summer recess.

'Progress is being made drafting the heads of bill'

Earlier, Labour Minister of State at the Department of Health Alex White said ministers are making progress in drafting the heads of the proposed legislation on abortion.

The four Government ministers involved in talks on the legislation held a meeting this morning.

Mr White said the legislation that will eventually be brought in will be quite restrictive.

He said it will contain safeguards but not any kind of excessive obstacles to the exercise by a woman of her constitutional rights.

The minister said they need to make sure to get the heads completed and the intention is to bring them to Cabinet by next Tuesday.

He acknowledged there has been a delay but said it is still hoped to get the legislation in before summer.

Minister for Health James Reilly, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald and Labour Ministers of State Kathleen Lynch and Mr White spent several hours discussing the proposals yesterday evening.

The issue was also raised at a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting last night.

Several speakers criticised the Government timetable for proposed abortion legislation and expressed concern that backbenchers were being railroaded on the matter.

Meanwhile, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said that a lot of people have expressed strong views on the Government's attempts to legislate for the X Case without having seen the heads of the bill.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Varadkar said that he himself had not seen them and was not involved in the current discussions.

However, he said that the Government's objectives were clear - to protect the life of the mother and to protect doctors who are performing life-saving procedures.

Mr Varadkar said it was a difficult and emotive issue, especially when it came to the issue of suicide and that views differed even within parties.

Meanwhile, at Leinster House today, a group of consultant psychiatrists said that many of their colleagues do not want legislation which would include the risk of suicide as a grounds for abortion.

A survey of more than 300 psychiatrists, 127 of whom responded, found 113 agreed that they have deep concerns about legislating for the X Case.

Keywords: abortion