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TDs vote against extending abortion bill to include fatal foetal abnormalities

The amendment tabled by WUAG TD Seamus Healy was defeated at committee stage tonight.

TDs discussing the abortion bill at committee stage tonight
TDs discussing the abortion bill at committee stage tonight
Image: Screengrab

AN AMENDMENT TO the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill to include a provision allowing for the termination of pregnancies where the foetus has no prospect of survival outside of the womb has been defeated at committee stage tonight.

TDs on the Oireachtas select sub-committee on Health are considering the dozens of amendments tabled to the legislation that provides for abortion in circumstances where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of a woman, including suicide, which passed the Dáil earlier.

Amendments with provisions for extending the legislation to allow for legal terminations in the cases of ‘inevitable miscarriages’ and ‘fatal foetal abnormalities’ were among the most noteworthy to be discussed so far this evening.

Campaigners from the Termination for Medical Reasons (TFMR) group and some legal experts have argued that such amendments are in line with the Constitution. However, Health Minister James Reilly told the committee that his advice from the Attorney General was that it was not possible, saying there was no “constitutional certainty”.

“It’s not feasible to put this in this bill,” he said with junior health minister Alex White later adding that the government could not risk including something which may later be ruled unconstitutional by the courts.

As a result, the amendment was defeated by eight votes to one with the government majority easily overseeing Workers and Unemployed Action Group TD Seamus Healy’s solitary vote in favour.

Sinn Féin TD Caomhghín Ó Caoláin abstained on the vote. Labour TD Ciara Conway said she hoped that she would be able to work with colleagues to include terminations for medical reasons in future legislation.

The amendment, tabled by Healy on behalf of a number of independent TDs, would have provided for two medical practitioners jointly certifying that if a foetus is suffering from a fatal foetal abnormality and is not compatible with life it can be terminated.

About 1,500 cases of fatal foetal diagnoses are reported each year in Ireland with about 80 per cent of the women travelling abroad for treatment.

Some of them shared their harrowing experiences at a recent press conference and in a tweet tonight, the TFMR group described the bill as it stands as “awful”.

TFMR: ‘We don’t want government empathy and compassion – give us action’

Read: 89 amendments to abortion bill tabled

Earlier: Abortion bill passes first Dáil vote, moves to committee stage

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Hugh O'Connell

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