Editor’s note. The following comes from our friends at SPUC–the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.
The context is the defeat in the Parliament of the Republic of Northern Ireland of a bill providing for abortion ostensibly in cases of “fatal fetal anomalies.” The Abortion Act of England and Wales does not apply in Northern Ireland. Currently, abortion is only legal if a woman’s life is at risk, or if there is a risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health. A “TD” is a member of the Irish Parliament.
The Fatal Fetal Abnormalities Bill, put forward by Independents4Change TD Mick Wallace, was rejected by 95 votes to 45 votes, despite having the support of several ministers, including Minister for Transport Shane Ross and junior ministers John Halligan and Finian McGrath.
Wallace’s bill sought to permit abortions in situations where a mother is given a diagnosis that an unborn child has a life-limiting condition.
Widely seen to be a re-run of Clare Daly TD’s defeated bill–which had been declared unconstitutional by Ireland’s Attorney-General– the Wallace Bill was backed by Sinn Féin, the Green Party, the AAA-PBP, the Social Democrats and some independents.
However, it did not get the same support from Fine Gael and most Fianna Fáil TDs.
“Opportunistic” and “hurtful”
The bill’s rejection has been welcomed by pro-life groups. Patrick Buckley, SPUC’s Ireland officer commented:
“The Wallace bill was opportunistic. It was presented on so-called compassionate grounds, but it ignored the hundreds of women who decide to give life a chance and allow their babies to live as long as they possibly can. It is very hurtful to such women to describe their babies as ‘non-viable’ and ‘incompatible with life’.
“We welcome the fact that Fine Gael and the vast majority of the Fianna Fáil deputies voted against the bill. We are disturbed, however, that Sinn Fein and some minor parties voted against the right to life for all Irish citizens,” added Mr Buckley.
Parents welcome result
The bill’s rejection was also welcomed by organisations such as One Day More and Every Life Counts which support parents who have been given a distressing diagnosis concerning their unborn babies.
Cliona Johnson of One Day More, whose baby John Paul was diagnosed at 20 weeks as suffering from anencephaly resulting in a limited life span, told George Hook of Newstalk Radio that the term ‘fatal fetal abnormality’ is not a medical diagnosis and that some members of their organisation who were given a similar diagnosis subsequently had healthy babies.
Dangers on the horizon
While the Dail [Parliament] has voted to uphold the right to life for unborn children on this occasion, there are still pressing concerns ahead for pro-lifers. A bill, moved [introduced] by Ruth Coppinger last week, calling on the government to hold a referendum on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment will be debated in the next three months.
The Eighth Amendment, which was approved by a referendum in 1983 with 67% of the popular vote, is the clause of the Irish constitution which specifically guarantees the right to life for unborn children. It reads:
The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.
If the Eighth Amendment were to be repealed, it would be a huge blow against the pro-life movement – and would mean serious danger for future unborn children in Ireland, as it would almost certainly clear the way for further pro-abortion legislation.