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Ex-Sinn Féin colleagues clash over 'misogynistic' amendment to abortion legislation

Four former or current party members were involved in today’s debate.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

FORMER SINN FÉIN TD Carol Nolan said it was “a disgrace” to call a proposed amendment to abortion legislation misogynistic, as was suggested by former party colleague Louise O’Reilly TD.

The debate happened during a meeting of the Oireachtas Health committee today, which has been considering changes to the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018.

The amendment sought to change legislation so that an abortion could only be legal if the woman was given “a description of the proposed termination of pregnancy method” or, in the case of abortion pills, they are given information about “reversing the effects of abortion-inducing drugs”.

In the case of the provision about abortion pills, the amendment required that women be offered a DVD about the reversing of abortion pills. 

The amendment was defeated but not before it provoked angry scenes within the committee.

Introducing the amendment, Peadar Tóibin TD said it was about providing “information” to women:

Information is key with regards any decision that a person makes and the more information that’s provided, that’s accurate, is the better for the individual making the important decision. 

Tóibín was suspended from Sinn Féin last week for six months for voting against abortion legislation in the Dáil. 

Speaking in opposition to the amendment, Sinn Féin health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD said it did not make sense.

“I wouldn’t support this amendment, I think it’s absolutely outrageous. There’s a couple of things in it that do not make sense, so we’ll put aside the misogynistic and condescending nature of the amendment, ” she said. 

O’Reilly’s comments sparked Tóibín to interject. Can we stop people calling names?,” he said.

PastedImage-79001 Suspended Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín and collague Jonathan O'Brien. Source: Oireachtas.ie

Later, Nolan also objected to O’Reilly’s categorisation of the amendment.

Nolan was also suspended from Sinn Féin for voting against the holding of the Eighth Amendment and subsequently left the party

Nolan said it was “a disgrace” to call the amendment misogynistic:

I just want to begin by stating again today, that this accusation of misogyny is an absolute disgrace. I take grave issue with it because it appears that as a woman you have to be pro-choice to be treated fairly and to get any respect in this chamber. And I take great exception with that, and I will be following up with it.

“I happen to be a woman and clearly seen to be on the wrong side and maybe a threat to the pro-choice agenda, I’m entitled to my views,” she added.

“I don’t think anyone is threatened by the deputy. She’s a threat to nobody,” O’Reilly responded.

PastedImage-25085 Sinn Féin TD Louise O'Reilly. Source: Oireachtas.ie

Nolan then continued and incorrectly claimed that the amendment offers women a choice about the information they would receive.  

Another Sinn Fein deputy, Jonathan O’Brien TD, then interejected to state that the amendment does not offer a choice but states women must be given the information.

Various other committee members also spoke out against the defeated amendment, among them Ruth Coppinger TD, who said it also unfairly targets women.

“I don’t know if it’s normal for a man who’s going in for a cancer operation to be sat down and shown a DVD of the operation. I don’t think that is the case, I’m pretty sure it’s only when it’s women who want to make up their own minds about what they want to do with their lives,” she said. 

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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