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'Not an option' to leave out suicide provision in any abortion law - Shatter

Justice Minister Alan Shatter was speaking as the government prepares to respond to the expert group on abortion’s report before the end of the year. TDs will also debate and vote on abortion legislation tonight.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter
Image: Julien Behal/PA Wire/Press Association Images

JUSTICE MINISTER ALAN Shatter says that it is “not an option” to leave out the provision for abortion in cases where there is a risk of suicide in any legislation that is brought forward by the government.

He was speaking after the publication of the expert group report which examined options for how the government should deal with a European court ruling concerning the country’s current abortion laws.

The report does not make any recommendation but identifies a “constitutionally, legally, and procedurally sound” option in the form of legislation and guidelines that, the report says, would allow Ireland to comply with the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights two years ago.

On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Shatter said that there had been “clear reasoning” set out in the report “as to what is the favourable option” and said that the government would be guided by the current constitutional provisions and the Supreme Court ruling in the X Case.

This case provided for abortion for women when their lives are in danger, including from the risk of suicide but the ECHR said there was a gap in the theory and implementation of the right to a lawful abortion in Ireland.

Concerns have been raised that the issue of suicidal intentions as grounds for abortion with some on the pro-life side arguing that this will lead to abortion on demand in Ireland.

Shatter said it was “not an option to leave it out” when asked about the suicide provision, adding: “The Supreme Court is absolutely clear about this issue and the people have been absolutely clear.”

The Minister was referring to two referenda where the people have been asked if they want to remove suicide as a grounds for abortion from the constitution – as determined by the Supreme Court – and have said No.

Shatter also pointed out that women “are less equal citizens in one particular area of our life” because of the current legal framework for abortion in Ireland saying that when men in this country need treatment “there are no barriers”.

He said that the government had made a decision that it would be making a decision on how it intends to respond to the expert group report before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the Dáil will vote tonight on United Left Alliance TD Clare Daly’s private members’ bill to legislate for the X Case. The government will vote against the bill, just as it did last April, in favour of bringing forward its own measures in the new year.

Daly’s proposed legislation was debated in the Dáil last night where Shatter, speaking on behalf of the government, said that the bill was defective and urged that it be withdrawn.

Further debate will take place from 7.30pm tonight before a vote is called.

As it happened: Abortion debate hosted by Vincent Browne

Read: Abortion report identifies ‘constitutionally, legally, procedurally sound’ option

Read: Abortion bill debate: TDs criticise leak of Expert Group report

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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