Speaking during this evening’s private members’ debate on the Medical Treatment (Termination of Pregnancy in Case of Risk to Life of Pregnant Woman) Bill Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the Bill should be allowed to proceed to committee state where it can be amended as appropriate.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said;
“Since the tragic death of Savita Halappanaver the issue of abortion has once again become a dominant one in Irish politics. It is indeed a double tragedy that it should take the death of a young woman to again focus minds on the requirement to protect women and to address the unresolved legal issues.
“But the need for greater legal clarity has been there for a long time. Disgracefully that need was neglected by successive governments.
“This Bill seeks to provide legal clarity. It may not be the required answer but Sinn Féin believes that it should be allowed to proceed to committee stage where it can be amended as appropriate.
“Legislation can now be addressed in light of the ‘Report of the Expert Group on the Judgement in A, B and C v Ireland’, the publication of which today I welcome.
“The report reminds us that in the A, B, C case the European Court of Human Rights found that Ms C’s right to private and family life had been violated contrary to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human rights. The court held that there was no accessible and effective procedure to enable her to establish whether she qualified for a lawful termination of pregnancy in accordance with Irish law. That, in a nutshell, sets out the need to legislate.
“The report sets out options for the provision of lawful termination of pregnancy in circumstances where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother which can only be avoided by a termination of the pregnancy. This is the core of the matter on which we have to provide as much legal certainty as possible.
“From the report’s analysis of the options it is clear that primary legislation is required and that regulations alone will not suffice.
“The detail of the report will require careful scrutiny in the days ahead – for example to assess if a combination of primary legislation and regulations would be preferable to primary legislation alone.
“A first reading of the report makes clear that what is most likely required is both primary legislation and regulations. A careful balance will have to be struck between making legislation too prescriptive and leaving too much to be dealt with by regulation.
“It is absolutely crucial that the government now acts speedily on the Report.
“As an immediate next step the government should allow this bill to proceed to committee stage. It is of course then up to the government to determine when committee stage will be taken. This can be done in consultation with all parties and any number of amendments can be brought forward to make this bill fit for purpose.
“We should certainly not have to wait another six months for legislation to be enacted. As an opposition party Sinn Féin is willing to co-operate with the government and with all parties in the Oireachtas to achieve the best outcome.”