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Dublin: 6 °C Thursday 14 November, 2019
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Catch-up: The things you should know about final Dáil abortion vote

A ministerial rebellion and a new minister within hours; anger at criminalisation of and lack of advocacy for women; the Dáil bar can stay open until 5am.

Pro-choice campaigners outside Leinster House as news came that the bill had been passed by the Dáil.
Pro-choice campaigners outside Leinster House as news came that the bill had been passed by the Dáil.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

LAST EVENING AND the early hours of this morning saw the Dáil sift through 154 amendments tabled on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013.

Eleven had been dealt with in the marathon session which straddled Wednesday evening and Thursday morning – but these contained some of the most contentious amendments relating to the suicide clause.

As we know, the Bill finally passed through the Dáil early this morning by 127 votes to 31.

These are some of the things you might like to know, if you didn’t catch all of the debate last night:

Lucinda Creighton is no longer a junior minister

The Minister for European Affairs had indicated that she had issues with the suicide clause of the Bill – and it was always likely that she would vote against it.

She did so, even before the final vote, by taking a stance against the Government on amendment 56, midway through the debate. The lone red dot on the frontbench on the bottom left of this voting chart is Creighton’s vote:

This meant that she immediately lost the Fine Gael parliamentary whip – and it would be only a matter of time before she lost her ministerial post. (She remains a TD.)

She also voted against the Bill in its entirety, in the final vote of the night.

Paschal Donohue is now a junior minister

He had been favourite to take over from Creighton should she vote against the Bill – and a statement from Taoiseach Enda Kenny at 1.55am confirmed his appointment. A change of personnel in a matter of five hours.

Here’s the Taoiseach extolling Donohue’s virtues – and also expressing regret at losing Creighton.

Rape and incest are not included in the new Bill

Some amendments proposing that they should be were rejected last night. The argument is that they never could be because it would require another referendum, with the need for a constitutional change.

This is also the argument against including terminations for medical reasons and “inevitable miscarriages”, amendments for which were tabled during Wednesday/Thursday morning’s debate and were rejected.

Joan Collins of People Before Profit Alliance told the Dáil last night thatrape and sexual abuse sufferers feel like second- or third-class citizens in Ireland when they see the low sentences handed down for sex crimes. She said:

In many cases, judges are offering compensation instead of putting these people in jail.

Read more about that debate here.

Defining a “cut-off point” for terminations is not a black and white issue

This was the first amendment of Lucinda Creighton’s to be tabled in the night – and was similar in theme to one from Róisín Shortall, for example: that many TDs wanted a gestational limit for the carrying out of abortion. Creighton said:

It’s the minimum we should be trying to offer.

Health Minister James Reilly had sent a letter to Creighton, she said, where he said the Bill still prohibited “the killing of a viable foetus” but Creighton wanted clarity on what viability meant. In the end, she dropped that particular amendment, but it did give rise to a challenging exchange between Reilly and Creighton. He said: “You cannot set a limit on a right to life (of the woman)”, adding:

We can’t tell a woman, ‘We can save your life before 24 weeks (gestation) but we can’t save it after 24 weeks.

To which Creighton replied:

Why would I want to restrict the right of life to an Irish woman? I am a woman. I am Irish.

A woman may not be able to take an advocate with her into review panel

There was some anger in the debate last night over this issue. Health Minister James Reilly rejected an amendment from Denis Naughten who wanted the term “and/” inserted into the Bill to make it official that a woman facing a three-consultant review panel to prove she was suicidal, could bring someone in with her.

Minister Reilly told Naughten that the legislation didn’t rule that possibility out and so there was no need for the amendment. Naughten, however, has since posted a long update on his Facebook page claiming that this isn’t the case and that Reilly’s answer showed that the whole Dáil debate was simply “window dressing” and not intended to encourage “real debate on the new law”.

You can read his Facebook post here.

Opposition TDs tabled 155 of the 165 amendments

To be expected, considering this was the Government’s legislation, but Róisín Shortall claimed that the Government cared “not one jot” to liaise and concede on any point.

The Bill, she claimed, was “hammered out somewhere else and there would be no changes”. This was clear from the rejection of an amendment such as that proposed by Naughten (above), she added.

Women face a jail term of up to 14 years if criminalised for abortion

Another hotly-fought amendment debate of the evening was the criminalisation of women who are deemed to have had an unlawful abortion or of people deemed to have assisted a woman to have one. Minister Reilly said that in fact this new legislation brought the sentence in line with the standard across the EU and down from a possible penal servitude life sentence currently attached to it.

It is UP to 14 years, he stressed, and said also that it would be up to the DPP to use their discretion to refer a case or not, and for the “discretion and wisdom of the courts” to sentence as appropriate to a situation.

Here were some of the responses to the rejection of an amendment seeking to decriminalise women in such instances:

Clare Daly: She said women are “exposing themselves to not being protected in terms of aftercare” because hospitals won’t ask them questions about pills they’ve taken etc due to the uncertainty about legality.

“You are maintaining a chilling effect that is not indicative of a modern society”.

Colm Keaveney: The idea of a 14-year sentence hanging over a woman in a distressed of vulnerable situation is appalling.”

Mick Wallace: Said it “acts as a form of discrimination” and further marginalises women who are already disadvantaged like those with disabilities, mental illnesses, those experiencing violence and migrant women.

Richard Boyd Barrett: “It is shameful that you seek to criminalise women for something that is their right.”

Billy Kelleher: “I don’t think that the sanction of 14 years will deter a 14-year-old girl who is pregnant from procuring tablets over the internet. What it could deter is her from accessing medical care if there are complications.”

Lucinda Creighton: Said it was an “extremely harsh sentence for somebody who we would imagine being in a very difficult and delicate situation” and that she had proposed to “simply reduce the sentence from a draconian 14 years” to five years.

She said it was an “extremely harsh sentence for somebody who we would imagine being in a very difficult and delicate situation”. And that she had proposed to “simply reduce the sentence from a draconian 14 years” to five years.

That if two nights is a long time in politics, six months must be a lifetime

We know that several TDs lost their party whip for voting against this legislation.

Sinn Féin though took an unusual step of releasing a press statement early this morning to announce that it had found a punishment for its one renegade TD who voted against the party advice to vote ‘Tá’.

Peadar Tóibín has been suspended, as of this morning, for six months from the Sinn Féin party.

PS: The Dáil bar can stay open until 5am

Not one from this evening/morning’s procedures but a revelation of how TDs kept their mojo going until 5am on Thursday.

Do they need a special licence to stay open until 5am in the Leinster House hostelries? I guess we’ll have to find out…

For a recap on what happened on the first marathon evening of debate, read Aoife Barry’s account from yesterday here.

Abortion legislation passes final Dáil vote>
These are the 31 TDs who voted against the abortion bill>
TDs vote against removal of criminalisation from abortion bill>
Creighton: I believe I made the right decision>
Paschal Donohue confirmed as Lucinda Creighton replacement>

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