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Dublin: 3 °C Wednesday 13 November, 2019
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"Please don't force a woman to grow a baby that is going to die"

The government will vote against a bill from TD Clare Daly on termination for medical reasons.

The press conference today about the bill.
The press conference today about the bill.
Image: Aoife Barry/TheJournal.ie

THE GOVERNMENT IS set to oppose the latest bill on termination for medical reasons (TFMR).

Last night, a government spokesperson said that Clare Daly’s proposed bill would be opposed “for the same reasons that previous bills were opposed”.

Opposing a previous bill put forward by Daly in April 2012, then-health minister James Reilly said that the government “cannot accept” the legislation as it currently stood, because it was “lacking in certain legal respects”.

“Hypocrites”

In response to the news, Deputy Clare Daly told TheJournal.ie:

They might as well wear a badge marked hypocrite. Over 50 of them have spoken on the need for this. Their shallow tears and words are an insult to the women and couples suffering from this violation of human rights. They have six  days to change their minds or forever be judged for their callousness.

The bill will be put to vote on 10 February, and will be debated on Friday.

TFMR Ireland said today:

We beseech the Government to legislate now to end the barbaric practice of abandoning women and couples in their greatest hour of need. Many TDs and Senators across the parties have already expressed support for a change in legislation on this issue. While we are grateful that so many politicians have gone ‘on record’ as supportive, expressions of support for change without a willingness to enact that change is actually only adding insult to injury.

The feel that the constitutionality of the proposed amendment is sound, given the arguments made by the State in D v Ireland at the European Court of Human Rights 2006, and also the judgement in PP v Health Service Executive 2014.

“If this doesn’t pass, we are going to have to seek legal advice,” James Burke of TFMR Ireland said.

The bill

Jennifer Schweppe, a legal expert involved in drafting the bill, said that the law in Ireland is “cruel, the law is stark”.

She said that they have “fully squared up the legal position” in this bill, and they are not proposing any change of law.

Schweppe said that the Constitution creates a “balancing act” between the life of a woman and the unborn, and there is no “equality of life” in these circumstances.

Schweppe said that the obligation on the State is to preserve the life of the unborn “as far as practicable”. She described the proposed bill as “incredibly limited”.

It doesn’t allow for terminations in the case where there is a possibility of life outside the womb, where there is talk of minutes and hours and days and weeks. This only allows for termination [...] in cases where the baby is incompatible with life.

If passed, the bill would include an amendment that includes a provision that two suitably qualified medical professionals (an obstetrician and a perinatologist) jointly certify in good faith that the foetus in question is suffering from a fatal foetal abnormality.

At an emotional press conference this morning, parents from the TFMR group outlined why this new bill should be accepted by the government. Members of TFMR Ireland also spoke to politicians about their experiences today, and a documentary by Luke McManus about TFMR was shown to a number of TDs and Senators this afternoon.

Guilt and illegality

At today’s press conference, three parents spoke about being told their children in the womb were not compatible with life.

One man said that he and his wife went through the experience a number of years ago, but they only went public 18 months ago.

He said that because a termination is illegal in Ireland, “that illegality stays with you”. He spoke of his guilt for not speaking up sooner, wondering if the legal situation would have been different for other couples if he had spoken up.

“Please, for everybody’s sake, support our bill,” he appealed.

Sarah McGuinness’s daughter was diagnosed with anencephaly in 2009 when she was 26 weeks pregnant. She said the heartache of the diagnosis was  compounded by having to travel abroad.

“It’s so disheartening for us,” said McGuinness of the fact that previous bills on TFMR were not supported when put before the Dáil.

She said that as a lay person, the fact that the whip may restrain TDs from voting as they wanted to angered her. “That’s not reality, it’s hiding behind a cloak,” she said.

“Please don’t force a woman to grow a baby that is going to die,” she said, adding “these are much-wanted babies”.

Deirdre Conroy, who brought her case to the European Court of Human Rights, said TDs should “look deep within their conscience”.

The Pro-Life Campaign called for “balance in this debate”, saying that parents of babies with life-limiting conditions are “entitled to hear about the positive benefits of perinatal hospice care”.

- Additional reporting Hugh O’Connell

Read: ‘No matter what anyone says to you, you’re a mammy and a daddy now’>

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