Tánaiste says Govt will make decision on content of abortion legislation tomorrow

Tuesday 30 April 2013 09.46
The Cabinet will discuss abortion legislation tomorrow morning
The Cabinet will discuss abortion legislation tomorrow morning

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has said he expects the Government will make a decision on the content of the legislation on abortion at tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting.

He said from the very beginning it had been made clear that the Government wants to bring certainty for women and for their medical practitioners.

Galway West TD Brian Walsh has become the first Fine Gael politician to state definitively that he will not vote for legislation that includes suicide as grounds for abortion.

His public annoucement has caused some surprise in Leinster House, where his name did not feature on many lists of potential rebels.

Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe urged TDs and Senators to wait and see the draft wording, and to participate in debates on it, before making up their minds.

The draft heads of the Bill are expected to come to Cabinet tomorrow.

Asked about a newspaper column by former Taoiseach John Bruton, who said legislation taking suicide into account was not necessary, Mr Gilmore said Mr Bruton was entitled to his views, but the Government has made a decision and there is a requirement to legislate.

Mr Bruton's brother, Richard, said while the issue of abortion was very divisive, the Government had been very clear about its approach to the issue.

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation said the 1983 Constitutional amendment had never been underpinned by legislation and the Government had made a commitment to deal with this issue.

He said a proper debate can be held on the proposal once the heads of the Bill are published.

The minister said: "Look, I'm not going to comment on any interventions that people choose to make, I'm a member of a Government that will have to make a collective decision tomorrow on the content of a legislative proposal in an area that I know is sensitive and difficult for people.

"But I think the Government has taken this in a very consistent way. We've had the input from the expert group. We've committed to a timeline and we're going to do that.

"We're going to hopefully publish heads tomorrow and there will be plenty of time for debate before the Dáil makes final decisions."

The minister also denied that the Fine Gael party was "tearing itself apart" over the issue.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny declined to respond to John Bruton's article.

He said the Government did not have the comfort of "picking issues or items from the Constitution".

Earlier, Mr Walsh said that allowing for an abortion on the grounds of a woman's suicidal intent would make for "bad law".

Mr Walsh said he would vote against any such legislation because he had "a serious issue" with suicide being grounds for allowing a termination of pregnancy.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Walsh said: "The very comprehensive and overwhelming medical evidence, which was presented to the Oireachtas hearings in January, very clearly stated that a surgical intervention of this nature - the performing of a termination - is not an appropriate treatment for a mental health issue.

"In fact, it's an entirely inappropriate treatment. Yet on the back of that clear evidence, the Government seems intent on pursuing legislation that would enshrine that into the law. That, to my mind, would make a bad law."

Elsewhere, a psychiatrist who has specialised in the treatment of pregnant women in Britain, has said there is evidence to show that where abortion is not available, women's lives are at risk of suicide by having an unwanted pregnancy.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Edition, Professor Veronica O'Keane of Trinity College Dublin, who led a national perinatal psychiatry service in the UK, said abortion is not a treatment for cancer, no more than it is a treatment for suicide.

Prof O'Keane said that abortion is never a treatment for suicide and it never will be.

She said abortion is a procedure that does not have to be a surgical procedure.

Professor O'Keane said psychiatrists had been placed in a really impossible situation.

She said that one psychiatrist and one obstetrician would suffice.

Professor O'Keane said if a psychiatrist was unsure about a patient they could request a second opinion from another consultant.

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