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Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C

'With a heavy heart': Fine Gael senator confirms she won't support abortion bill

Fidelma Healy-Eames has confirmed her opposition to the legislation in the Seanad this morning but one Fianna Fáil senator is supporting the bill.

TWO FINE GAEL senators who are likely to oppose the government’s abortion legislation have spoken during today’s debate on the bill in the Seanad.

Fidelma Healy-Eames, who confirmed her opposition, and Paul Bradford spoke during this afternoon’s debate on the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill ahead of a vote on the second stage of the legislation.

Healy-Eames said that “with a heavy heart” and being aware of her pending expulsion from the Fine Gael parliamentary she could not support the bill.

“Knowing that I have the best intentions for expectant mothers and their babies, I cannot support this bill as it stands,” she told senators, urging them to support her amendment to the bill to send it back to the Dáil for further consideration.

Bradford meanwhile said that he did not expect to have been in a position where he would be considering such legislation and said that Labour and Fine Gael had devised legislation that was “literally a done political deal”.

“We didn’t expect to come to a place in our political life where my party, leading our government would be bringing before us abortion legislation,” he said.

Bradford said “PR spin” had attempted to detract from the reality that the legislation amounted to a change in the law and said it was not “codifying the law” as the government has insisted. He accused “PR people” of working on such language to get the legislation passed.

Bradford said there were better solutions for women expressing suicidal ideation than offering them abortions and  said he hoped when the debate on this legislation is concluded "the real tragedy" of women who travel abroad for abortions will be addressed.

"We must not talk about punishing these people or casting them as some sort of lesser being. These women need our absolute support and encouragement," he said.  Bradford called for a "national conversation" on why "we tell these women that abortion is a cure".

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil senator Averil Power gave an emotional speech in which she discussed her own circumstances of having been adopted as a child as a result of being an "unplanned daughter of a single women for whom keeping me was never really an option".

She said she had always been conflicted about abortion because of this but said there was no doubt that in circumstances where a woman's life is at risk "everything possible must be done to save the mother's life".

Power, who support the bill, said the legislation meant an abortion will not be sanctioned unless "absolutely neccessary" and said claims that it provides for late-term abortions are "simply not true".

She said attempts to remove section 9 of the bill concerning risk of suicide would "amount to a deliberate and anti-democratic denial of the will of the people as expressed in successive referenda."

Her party colleague, Brian Ó Domhnaill, who is voting against the legislation, described the vote on it it as a "life and death issue" and said that the risk of suicide increases after an abortion, citing studies.

Read: Which Senators are going to vote against the abortion bill?

Read: Two senators hope to bring amendments on fatal foetal abnormalities

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