The Government is trying to be compassionate to the women of this country, Carlow/Kilkenny Labour Deputy Ann Phelan told the Dáil during a debate on the report of the Expert Group on the Judgment in the A, B and C v. Ireland Case. “If we legislate for the X case I do not believe the whole world will fall off its axis. We just need to get on with it,” she added.
The Government set up the expert group to examine the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case, she explained. This followed a 20 year-old judgment by the Supreme Court in the X case that termination in life threatening circumstances, including a risk of suicide, can be lawful. This was further upheld by two referendums. Despite the 1992 ruling, no legislation had been introduced to allow abortion to protect the mother’s life, added Deputy Phelan.
The Government’s commitment to this issue was clear, she maintained and was reflected in the agreed Programme for Government which committed to the establishment of the Expert Group to examine these issues and make recommendations to Government on how the matter should be properly addressed.
“Abortion is a sensitive, not to mention emotive, issue but it is also a female issue,” she said. “I am not trying to disparage any of the sentiments expressed by our male colleagues on this issue. I find it hard to take, however, when men feel it incumbent on themselves to oppose a woman’s right to a termination if or when her life is at risk. It is a position they will never have to deal with in the same way as a woman must. The House has only 15% female representation. If the situation were reversed in favour of women, would this legislation have been implemented years ago?”
The Expert Group’s report has been published and the legislation in question provides for the drafting of regulations to deal with the detail and practical matters relevant to the issue, such as changing medical practices and scientific advances, as well as addressing emerging challenges to implementation, said Deputy Phelan. Most aspects of the provision of lawful termination of pregnancy would be set out in primary legislation with certain operational matters delegated to the Minister to govern by way of regulation.
“It is incumbent on us to ensure that all the relevant facts and legal clarity on the issue are provided, based on the core principles of the expert report. I am neither pro-abortion nor pro-choice. I have been contacted by pro-life and pro-choice people. None of them was pro-abortion,” she said.
The women of this country who find themselves in a crisis situation, such as A, B and C, were not just statistics or fictional examples, pointed out Deputy Phelan. “They are real, rational human beings. They are our daughters, our nieces, our mothers, our sisters, friends and colleagues. Although I respect the views of those who are pro-life, I cannot help but wonder whether protecting the right of the unborn is obliterating the rights of the living,” concluded Deputy Phelan.