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Dublin: 16 °C Wednesday 30 July, 2014

Column: I’m a pro-choice TD and I’ve never pretended to be anything else

Labour TD Anne Ferris says a Sunday Independent article ‘revealing’ her beliefs about abortion is irrelevant because she has gone on public record expressing her pro-choice beliefs.

Anne Ferris

This week, the Sunday Independent newspaper published a front-page story revealing transcripts from taped conversations about abortion legislation between Labour TDs Anne Ferris Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who both indicated the legislation could be used as a stepping stone for less restrictive regimes in the future. Here, Ferris addresses the story – saying the article added nothing new to her public position on the matter, as she has consistently gone on record as a pro-choice advocate.

THERE’S A SAYING that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

Last Sunday, a newspaper published a story whose sole purpose was to sow dissent and distrust, and it got me thinking about the quote above.

The story sought to portray me as a duplicitous woman who was ‘caught out’ as a result of ‘sting’ tapes recording my previously unexposed position on abortion.

I want to be clear from the off; I am a pro-choice TD and I’ve never pretended to be anything but. In fact I’m on the record as being pro-choice and believing that X-case legislation doesn’t go far enough.

Secretly recorded conversation

I was disappointed, then, that a woman came to my office, a woman that I thought had real concerns, secretly recorded our conversation, and sold it to the lowest bidder.

Well they say that paper never refuses ink but I understand that when this tape was initially offered to another paper, the editor declined saying it wasn’t real journalism.

I was upset that another paper took the opportunity to go ahead then, on a front page article, with a story that I believe was underhand, wrong and published to do maximum damage to me and to coalition relations.

I was also upset, as were my family, when a journalist called to my home and refused to leave when asked.

It’s not the type of journalism I have any truck with.

I have full respect for the Fourth Estate and have admired the work that journalists in this country, and around the world, have done and continue to do on a daily basis. Indeed when I think of good solid journalism people like Mary Raftery come to mind.

However, I do think the profession is lessened when articles like that of last Sunday’s appear.

Perhaps though, that is just my moral arc and the values I hold dear would be at odds with that of another.

Certainly when it comes to the actual issue at stake, that of abortion, I know there are varying views. It is a controversial topic, I am aware of that. It’s one that evokes emotions on all sides of the debate.

However, I am a pro-choice TD. I am a Catholic and I’m a proud member of the Labour Party. I have campaigned on this issue for many years and I welcome the fact that after 21 years the Heads of Bill legislating for the X-Case have finally been agreed.

The State should not have control over a woman’s mind or body

Members of the Oireachtas will have to decide for themselves what support they will show for this legislation. They will do this, I hope, without being manipulated by elements of the media or by well-resourced and underhand campaigners.

I for one know where I stand. I will support this legislation fully and completely. I think it is the right and responsible thing to do.

In time to come, in arguments for the future, I would very much like to see greater and more expansive rights for women. Indeed I mean to work to that end.

I don’t think the State should have control over a woman’s mind or her body.

These are my views and I don’t run away from them. I hope that in time the moral arc will bend towards justice on this issue and the rights that women deserve can be realised.

Read: Labour TD says newspaper ‘sting’ job on abortion beliefs was intended to mislead

Read: ‘Those tapes are trying to sow division’ – Minister dismisses abortion ‘sting’ job

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