Call for politicians to 'grasp the nettle' of abortion issue

Friday 29 August 2014 22.46
Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell said that nobody's aspirations are being satisfied by the current laws
Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell said that nobody's aspirations are being satisfied by the current laws

Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell has said politicians have postponed the issue of abortion for far too long by using what she called the "safety valve" of the Right to Travel legislation.

She said sooner or later politicians will have to “grasp the nettle” of the issue.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News At One, she said this issue has been discussed more in Ireland than in any other country and that she would like to see some form of all party consensus for “a calm debate with cool heads” about the kind of regime that is required.

She said that the Right to Travel legislation does not meet the needs of many women.

It assumes that women have a passport, access to the internet, a credit card and are physically well, she said.

Ms Mitchell said that nobody’s aspirations are being satisfied by the current laws and after so many court cases since the 1980s there is still not a regime that does what we actually want it to do.

She said she believes there would have been a majority consensus to include the case of fatal foetal abnormalities while preparing the current legislation but this was constrained by the Constitution.

She said that the Constitution is too limiting in that situation but it is too open in others.

She said a calm debate cannot take place because of the constraints that exist in the constitution and that neither of the debate is being satisfied.

The Fine Gael party issued a statement in response to Ms Mitchell's claim, saying, "the Government is monitoring the implementation of the new legislation closely and will continue to do so."  

The statement added that "this legislation requires the Minister for Health to report by the middle of next year on the workings of the Act based on feedback and data given to him by each hospital."

Cora Sherlock, Deputy Chairperson of the Pro Life Campaign, said, "the calls for the further liberalisation of Ireland's abortion laws are coming at a time when the baby at the centre of the latest abortion controversy clings to life in an Irish hospital.

"There is something deeply unpleasant about the way some people are using this case to push for more abortion."

Ms Sherlock said she agreed with Ms Mitchell that "the debate on abortion should be respectful and informed but there is no point in having a debate that completely airbrushes the rights of the unborn child out of any discussion."

Ms Sherlock also said those calling for the deletion of the remaining Constitutional protection for the unborn are seeking to broaden the grounds for abortion and are ignoring the adverse effects of abortion for both women and their unborn babies.

"The Government's abortion legislation in 2013 was presented as restrictive even though it allows abortion up to birth in the case of threatened suicide based on no medical evidence.

Ms Sherlock added, "similarly, those now calling for any remaining Constitutional protection of the unborn to be removed present their proposals as restrictive." 

"In practice such a regime would not be restrictive at all as we've seen from virtually every country that introduced abortion always under the guise that it would be restrictive."

Meanwhile, the Doctors for Choice group has said it strongly supports an inquiry into the recent controversial case of a woman who had requested an abortion but was refused.  Instead her pregnancy ended with the baby being delivered by Caesarean section.

The doctors said they believe that the response to this "distressing case requires that the clinical decisions around certification under the law be included in the terms of reference and that the inquiry should be independent of the Health Service Executive."

They have called on the HSE to set up an independent inquiry and invite Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran to return to chair it.

Professor Arulkumaran chaired the Savita Halappanavar Inquiry in 2013.