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Two FG TDs seeking new abortion referendum

By Sarah Mac Donald - 30 August, 2014

"The only way forward that I can see is to take [article 40.3.3] out of the Constitution altogether”: Olivia Mitchell.

constitution_of_ireland

Courtesy: RTE, Irish independent and Irish Times

Two Fine Gael TDs have called for a repeal of or a referendum on the eighth amendment to the constitution in relation to abortion warning that it wasn’t working.

Meath East TD Regina Doherty on Friday evening joined Dublin South TD, Olivia Mitchell, the first Fine Gael deputy to back a repeal of the amendment, in voicing their dissatisfaction with the amendment.

Speaking on RTE Radio One, Deputy Mitchell said, “The regime we have satisfies nobody’s aspirations and fails those involved again and again. The only way forward that I can see is to take [article 40.3.3] out of the Constitution altogether.”

“That would have to be done by way of a referendum but would have to be preceded by a clear indication of what legislation would replace it. That should come about following a really informed debate, calmer than the one we have now.”

She said, a vote should not take place in the aftermath of the latest abortion controversy or before the next general election, to avoid a “knee-jerk” reaction.

Ireland’s abortion regime is not working and a referendum to remove the eighth constitutional amendment is the only way to resolve the situation, she commented.

The Fine Gael TD said politicians have postponed the issue of abortion for far too long by using what she called the “safety valve” of the Right to Travel legislation.

She said sooner or later politicians would have to “grasp the nettle” of the issue.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News At One, she said this issue has been discussed more in Ireland than in any other country and that she would like to see some form of all party consensus for “a calm debate with cool heads” about the kind of regime that is required.

She said that the Right to Travel legislation does not meet the needs of many women.

It assumes that women have a passport, access to the internet, a credit card and are physically well, she said.

Ms Mitchell said that nobody’s aspirations are being satisfied by the current laws and after so many court cases since the 1980s there is still not a regime that does what we actually want it to do.

She said she believes there would have been a majority consensus to include the case of fatal foetal abnormalities while preparing the current legislation but this was constrained by the Constitution.

She said that the Constitution is too limiting in that situation but it is too open in others.

Deputy Mitchell said a calm debate cannot take place because of the constraints that exist in the constitution and that neither of the debate is being satisfied.

The Fine Gael party issued a statement in response to Ms Mitchell’s claim, saying, “the Government is monitoring the implementation of the new legislation closely and will continue to do so.”

The statement added that “this legislation requires the Minister for Health to report by the middle of next year on the workings of the Act based on feedback and data given to him by each hospital.”

However, Cora Sherlock, Deputy Chairperson of the Pro Life Campaign, said, “the calls for the further liberalisation of Ireland’s abortion laws are coming at a time when the baby at the centre of the latest abortion controversy clings to life in an Irish hospital.”

“There is something deeply unpleasant about the way some people are using this case to push for more abortion.”

Ms Sherlock said she agreed with Ms Mitchell that “the debate on abortion should be respectful and informed but there is no point in having a debate that completely airbrushes the rights of the unborn child out of any discussion.”

Ms Sherlock also said those calling for the deletion of the remaining Constitutional protection for the unborn are seeking to broaden the grounds for abortion and are ignoring the adverse effects of abortion for both women and their unborn babies.

“The Government’s abortion legislation in 2013 was presented as restrictive even though it allows abortion up to birth in the case of threatened suicide based on no medical evidence.

Ms Sherlock added, “Similarly, those now calling for any remaining Constitutional protection of the unborn to be removed present their proposals as restrictive.”

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