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'The Dáil is full of men who will never need an abortion, we don't know what it's like'

A very passionate debate has just taken place in the Dáil.

Updated: 11.56

TDS HAVE BEEN debating the controversial issue of abortion this morning.

Socialist/Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Ruth Coppinger proposed a bill that calls for a referendum to be held on repealing the eighth amendment of the Irish constitution.

ruth copp Ruth Coppinger Source: Oireachtas.ie

Coppinger noted that as the debate was taking place 13 Irish women were packing their bags to go to the UK for terminations.

As week speak, 13 women are packing their bags and leaving this country – in secrecy, in stigma, and also at huge personal cost to themselves and their families.

The Dublin West TD noted that an unknown number of Irish women also order abortion pills online.

Coppinger said the current law affects working class women worst, as they struggle to find the €1,500 or so needed to go to the UK. She said these women end up having late abortion, rather than deciding to keep the baby.

“So lowly are women valued in this country that we’re forced to have this debate again,” Coppinger said, calling on Labour and Sinn Féin to support the bill,” Coppinger said.

The wording of the eighth amendment is as follows:

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

During a passionate appeal in support of the motion, independent TD John Halligan spoke about abortions in the cases of rape and fatal foetal abnormality.

john halligan John Halligan Source: Oireachtas.ie

He said male politicians in the Dáil are “out of touch”.

Rape is a violation of a woman’s human rights. It’s a violation of her dignity which always has a catastrophic effect on a woman for the rest of her life.
If you were confronted by your wife, your daughter or your mother that was physically abused and raped, would you, would you insist on your wife or your mother or your daughter going through with the pregnancy?
It is inhumane an cruel.
Halligan said the hypocrisy in the Dáil about the issue of abortion is “stenching”.
Most of the Dáil is made up of men, we’re never going to need an abortion so we don’t know what it’s like.
Men can be raped, but not to the extent that women are raped. We don’t have to deal with the physicality of fatal foetal abnormality, so most men in this Dáil are out of touch.
They’re completely out of touch with how women feel when they’re violated, and that’s shameful on all of us.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar said he would not be supporting the bill beause it is “incomplete” and “unnecessary”.

Varadkar said his views have been made clear in previous debates on the issue, but that he would give a summary of them again, noting he is “pro-life”.

I accept that the unborn is a human life with its own rights.

He admitted the current law is too restrictive, but said he can’t support this bill as it “affords no protections or rights at all to the unborn”.

leo v 8 may Leo Varadkar Source: Oireachtas,ie

Varadkar noted the government brought in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill in 2013 and said the next Dáil could look at the issue further.

He said all parties need time to reflect on their manifestos, adding that Fine Gael was elected on a mandate that they would not legalise abortion.

Labour TD Anne Ferris, who lost the whip in February after supporting United Left deputy Clare Daly’s efforts to legislate for abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities, said she hasn’t decided if she will back the bill.

Ferris said that, in principal, she isn’t against the bill, but hasn’t made up her mind if she will vote for a referendum that cannot be held in this government’s term due to time constraints.

anne ferris Anne Ferris Source: Oireachtas.ie

Ferris said that is she does support the bill, her vote be a symbolic one for all those in Labour who want to reform Irish abortion laws, but can’t back they bill as they would lose the whip and throw the country into “election chaos”.

At its recent national conference, Labour party members voted to campaign for repealing the eighth amendment and including the commitment to hold referendum in its manifesto at the next election.

Ferris said that if we were holding a referendum on repealing the issue on 22 May, she’d be campaigning for it.

Yesterday we asked Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin discuss the “strong personal views” held by many in the Labour party on abortion, and why he won’t support Coppinger’s bill.

Source: Video TheJournal.ie/YouTube

Fianna Fáil health spokesperson Billy Kelleher said he believes the unborn are entitled to protection, adding he thinks most people in Ireland don’t want abortion on demand.

Kelleher said the bill “will not achieve an awful lot other that causing the usual embarrassment” for certain parties.

billy k Billy Kelleher Source: Oireachtas.ie

Sinn Féin health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said his party will support the bill, following a vote by members at the party’s Ard Fheis to call for a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment.

coc Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Source: Oireachtas.ie

Ó Caoláin said the issue is “never a black and white” and his thoughts “are with anyone who has had to deal with this”.

The bill is likely to be comfortably defeated by the government when a vote takes place next Tuesday.

Customs seized 1,017 abortion pills last year

Brendan Howlin on why left-wing parties “thrive in chaos”

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Órla Ryan

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