By Susan Gately - 06 July, 2016
A vote on an amendment to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, allowing abortion in the case of so-called ‘fatal foetal abnormalities’ is expected to take place in the Dáil later this week.
On Monday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed that Government ministers belonging to the Independent Alliance – Shane Ross, John Halligan and Finian McGrath would not be subject to the party whip as it only applies to Fine Gael TDs.
The Government has already stated that it will be voting against the amendment as it has been advised by the Attorney General that it is unconstitutional.
The Pro Life Campaign has criticised the stance taken by the Independent Alliance Ministers.
“The idea of a free vote on issues like abortion is of course a good thing,” said Cora Sherlock from the Pro Life Campaign.
“On this occasion, however, Fine Gael’s opposition to a free vote is understandable given the Attorney General’s advice that the bill is unconstitutional.”
She went on, “There is something really disturbing about the way some politicians are trying to introduce legislation that will have the effect of removing all legal protection from these babies who are very sick and need our support.”
Ms Sherlock said it was hard to take recent comments by John Halligan and Shane Ross seriously “when they know it is impossible for doctors to say how long a baby with one of these conditions will live, particularly when neither of them have met with families who were pressured to abort their children in these circumstances.”
Speaking to catholicireland.net Ms Sherlock said it was sad to be having a debate, this week and last on “abortion for these babies.”
“Why are we not having a discussion in the Dáil about how to make Ireland a centre of excellence for perinatal palliative care?”
“Indeed why is the ongoing discussion, when the trauma of these parents comes up, always focusing on abortion which is an irrevocable and tragic decision instead of discussing how we can improve the services of palliative perinatal care which would be the compassionate response?”
Supporting the Attorney General’s advice, she said the bill was unconstitutional.
“It’s sound advice considering what the bill intends to do is to remove legal protection from the unborn child which is something that the people of Ireland don’t want, and have inserted that protection into the constitution.”
The PLC spokeswoman said it was important for the public to let their TDs know that “they are in favour of that protection continuing and that what really is the correct response, the compassionate response, to a situation where a family is told that their baby has a life limiting situation, is that they would be provided with proper support and proper perinatal palliative care.”
Independent TD John Halligan has said it is up to the courts to decide if proposed abortion legislation is unconstitutional. The vote on the amendment is due to take place on Thursday.