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Dublin: 12 °C Thursday 21 February, 2019

Fine Gael TD insists he won't support suicide clause in abortion law

Brian Walsh says the Oireachtas hearings found abortion cannot treat suicidal ideation – and won’t allow it be included.

FG's Brian Walsh has become the first Government TD to say he will not support abortion laws which include suicide risk as grounds for a termination.
FG's Brian Walsh has become the first Government TD to say he will not support abortion laws which include suicide risk as grounds for a termination.

A FINE GAEL backbencher has become the first TD from the government parties to affirm that he will not vote in favour of the government’s planned abortion laws if they include the risk of suicide as grounds for a termination.

Brian Walsh, a TD in Galway West, said including suicide as a threat to the life of the mother was a “flawed premise” – adding that he feared the agenda of pro-choice politicians who would use the new laws as a stepping stone to a more liberal regime.

“I fear that the motivation behind the pro-choice lobby, and pro-choice parliamentarians, is that this will open it up for further liberalisation,” Walsh said.

“Even if it’s completely restrictive,” he added, “it’s still founded on a flawed premise that abortion is a clear treatment for suicide – the clear evidence is that this is not the case.”

The former Mayor of Galway said his colleagues in Sinn Féin, and the likes of independent TD Clare Daly, advocated a far more liberal abortion regime than would be permitted under the X Case legislation.

Walsh told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that he did not believe he would be the only government TD to vote against the legislation if it included a recognition of suicide.

I’m saying very clearly that if this legislation, at the end of the day, legislates for suicide being a grounds for a termination, then I can’t support it.

Walsh said the suicide clause had only been included in the Supreme Court’s ruling in the X Case because that “flawed judgment” had been arrived at “in an information vacuum”.

He said, however, that he had been given assurances that TDs would be given a “full and frank opportunity” to debate the bill both at Oireachtas level and within the Fine Gael parliamentary party.

Because of the level of scrutiny that would be afforded to the Bill, “the legislation finally put before us to vote on in July may address some of those concerns in some way,” he said.

He added that he believed the law should make it “absolutely clear” that medical professionals could provide any necessary treatment to save a mother’s life “without fear of reproach”, and that he also supported the repeal of the 1861 laws which criminalise a doctor for carrying out an abortion.

Walsh’s stance is shared by the Fianna Fáil party, which voted at its Árd Fheis not to support any legislation which would include the risk of suicide as grounds for a termination being carried out.

Fianna Fáil’s stance guarantees that a vote will be called in the Dáil when the legislation is finally passed; otherwise, the legislation would have enjoyed the support of all four major parties and a division may not have been called.

Read: ‘Those tapes are trying to sow division’ – Minister dismisses abortion ‘sting’ job

Column: Abortion legislation can’t open the floodgates – no matter what some TDs say

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Gavan Reilly

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