TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY has confirmed that the government’s commitment to legislate for the Supreme Court ruling in the X Case will address the issue of the risk of suicide posing a threat to the life of the woman.
Pro-life groups have raised concerns that legislating for the X Case will lead to abortion on demand in Ireland as a number of the anti-abortion groups and politicians slammed Fine Gael today.
The government today announced that it will introduce the first piece of legislation in Irish history which will permit abortions to be carried out in circumstances where the life of the mother is at risk, including from the risk of suicide. The law will be supplemented by regulations.
It will also make “appropriate amendments” to the existing criminal law which dates back to 1861 - the Offences Against the Person Act – which makes it an offence to undergo or administer a procedure indenting to terminate a pregnancy.
In the Dáil this afternoon, the Taoiseach committed to providing “legal certainty” in the area of abortion and said that there was “no intention” of the new law being seen as “abortion on demand or abortion replacing contraception”.
He said that the government proposals “include the question of suicide arising from the X Case”.
The chairman of the Oireachtas Health Committee, Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer, said today that the committee will meet tomorrow and on Thursday to decide on who to call before it during three-days of hearings scheduled for the 8, 9, and 10 January next year.
He said that the committee will be “fair in our hearings and we will consult wisely and widely” and called for a “fair and open” process that proceeds with “calmness”.
Pro-life groups have reacted angrily to the government announcement today with the Life Institute saying that it would now make sure that “every Irish person understands that Fine Gael is now the abortion party”.
“Fine Gael gave a commitment not to legalise abortion in Election 2011. If they break that promise then the pro-life movement will make every person in Ireland aware of what every Fine Gael TD did in relation to abortion,” spokeswoman Niamh Ui Bhriain said today.
“In that case, we would make sure that every Irish person knows that a vote for Fine Gael is now a vote for abortion,” she continued before adding: “This will not blow over, despite what Enda Kenny might think. This issue is the human rights issue of our time, and the lives of mothers and babies cannot be sacrificed to political opportunism.”
Independent Senator Rónán Mullen said that Fine Gael has “endorsed the intentional killing of unborn children” in making its decision today.
He said that the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the A, B, and C vs Ireland case two years – which found a gap in the theory and implementation of the right to a lawful abortion in Ireland - did not “require legislation for abortion on any mental health ground”.
“Fine Gael’s about-turn is based on a psychiatric myth – the claim that abortion is a treatment for suicide,” he said.
“Perhaps the Supreme Court of 20 years ago could be forgiven for thinking this, but in the intervening 20 years it has become very clear that abortion is not a treatment for suicide. Even pro-choice psychiatrists routinely acknowledge this.”
Speaking on RTÉ’s Drivetime programme, Caroline Simons, a legal advisor to the Pro Life Campaign, said that the Supreme Court decision in the X Case was “flawed” because there was “not adequate medical evidence” heard.
She said that “Supreme Court judgements do not always hold forever” and that they “were not correct for all times”.
Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin welcomed the announcement from the government today and said that legislation with regulations is “the right option to take”.
“We must legislate,” he said in a statement. “That is the task that the Oireachtas must now face up to. All Teachtaí Dála have an obligation to address this need and to step up to the mark as legislators. There is no selfish political advantage in this for any party.
“We have to approach this challenging issue with compassion and understanding and respect, conscious of strong and sincere views held on all sides.”