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Can fatal foetal abnormalities be legislated for? Politicians want to take ANOTHER look...

The Oireachtas Health Committee has agreed to add the issue to its work programme

The Dáil voted down Clare Daly's bill by 104 votes to 20 earlier this month.
The Dáil voted down Clare Daly's bill by 104 votes to 20 earlier this month.
Image: Oireachtas TV

THE OIREACHTAS HEALTH Committee has agreed to examine the question of whether abortions in circumstances of fatal foetal abnormalities can be legislated for within the existing constitutional structures.

Chairman Jerry Buttimer has confirmed that the committee has agreed to a request from Labour senator Ivana Bacik to add the issue to its work programme. But he insisted there has been no decision “on how we will do it or when we will do it”.

Buttimer, a Fine Gael TD, was chair of the committee when it held extensive hearings in early 2013 ahead of the drafting of the hugely contentious Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill which was passed into law later that year.

Bacik, a barrister and legal expert, wrote to the committee last week asking it to undertake a review of the current law to determine whether fatal foetal abnormalities could be legislated for without repeal of the 8th Amendment that enshrines the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn in the Constitution.

“It’s an issue where there are different views. So I think it would be worth our committee taking the view of experts as to whether it would be possible to do it in certain cases,” she told TheJournal.ie this evening.

“Having seen how important the hearings of the committee were in relation to the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act, it’s a useful model for us.”

The issue has been put back on the agenda this month after the United Left TD Clare Daly’s bill to legislate for terminations in such circumstances was debated and voted down in the Dáil.

The government argued that Daly’s bill was unconstitutional based on the Attorney General’s advice. Other legal experts advising the Termination for Medical Reasons (TFMR) campaign argued that Daly’s bill confers no new rights, only clarifies existing ones.

Many Labour TDs were keen to back the bill but the party – bar Wicklow TD Anne Ferris – ultimately chose to vote it down while insisting that it would campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment after the next election.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie this evening, Buttimer insisted that there had been no decision on if or when to hold hearings on the issue.

“The committee has made no decision on what we will do. We’ve agreed to put in on our work programme, which is full up to Easter and pretty full from Easter to summer,” he said.

The Cork South-Central TD said there had been “no decision on the approach to take” and said he “wouldn’t like to speculate” on whether there will be public hearings.

The committee’s busy schedule means consideration of the issue is unlikely to take place before the same-sex marriage referendum in May.

‘A shameful abandonment’: Just one Labour TD defies party as Clare Daly’s abortion bill voted down

Leo: We’ve no mandate for abortion referendum, Mick Wallace:That’s horseshit

TFMR: “Please don’t force a woman to grow a baby that is going to die”

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Hugh O'Connell

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