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Taoiseach: 'Abortion bill is bad for women and medically inadequate'

Cabinet agrees not to take a position on bill tabled by TD Mick Wallace

File photo
File photo
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Updated 3.22pm

MICK WALLACE’S BILL to allow for abortions in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities is bad for women and medically inadequate, the Taoiseach has told the Dáil.

Enda Kenny was speaking in response to a question from Labour leader Brendan Howlin about the declared intention of three Independent Alliance ministers to back the bill in Thursday’s vote.

The Taoiseach said that the bill’s efficacy had already been called into question by medical experts.

I’m concerned that the clarity of how inadequate the bill is coming from the medical profession… the bill in question is a bad bill for women, it does nothing for them.
I have a conscience about that and would not vote for anything that is not in their interests.

Last week Minister for Health Simon Harris said he was informed by the Chief Medical Officer that the circumstances of such a termination as outlined in the bill would not only be unconstitutional, but also medically impracticable.

The Cabinet today agreed to not take a position on Mick Wallace’s bill, which has caused a rift between Fine Gael and Independent Alliance TDs.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross and ‘super-junior’ minister Finian McGrath have said they will support the bill.

The Taoiseach has insisted the government’s legal advice from the Attorney General is that the bill is unconstitutional, but admitted today in the Dáil that he could not apply the whip to members of Cabinet who were not part of Fine Gael.

This is a partnership government, this party does not have a majority and cannot act as a majority.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland yesterday, Ross said he and McGrath would be joined in voting for the bill by junior minister John Halligan.

It is our intention to vote for the bill. It is the view the Independent Alliance that on issues of conscience and issues of this sort that there should be a free vote.
Finian McGrath and John Halligan and I intend to vote for this bill and equally, we’re very, very happy with it because it’s part of the new politics and what we believe in.

He said that fellow Independent Alliance members Kevin “Boxer” Moran and Seán Canney would vote against the bill.

Meanwhile, a pro-life demonstration was held outside Leinster House this afternoon.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Cora Sherlock of the Pro-Life Campaign said:

I think it’s very sad that people like Mick Wallace and Shane Ross aren’t taking the time or haven’t taken the time to meet with families who say they were pressurised to abort their babies who were diagnosed with life-limiting conditions.

Cabinet responsibility 

The decision by a Cabinet minister to vote for a bill opposed by the government has raised question marks about collective Cabinet responsibility.

Ross said that collective responsibility was important in “certain areas”, but that a free vote should be allowed on issues, such as this bill, that are not in the Programme for Government.

The Taoiseach has said the whip system doesn’t apply to the Independent Alliance.

The Cabinet is also expected to discuss the establishment of a constituency commission, proposals to support people at risk of losing their homes and new measures to allow emails and social media be intercepted to fight gangland crime and terrorism.

- with reporting by Órla Ryan and Darragh Murphy

Read: Vincent Browne: If Shane Ross votes against the Cabinet on abortion, Enda Kenny should remove him

Read: Three ministers to vote for Bill allowing abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities

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