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Sinn Féin justice spokesperson calls for X Case legislation

21 November, 2012 - by Pádraig Mac Lochlainn


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21 November 2012

Sinn Féin justice spokesperson calls for X Case legislation
Speaking during tonight’s Dáil debate, Sinn Féin TD for Donegal North East Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn called for the introduction of legislation for the X case to allow for abortion in cases where there is a risk to the life of a pregnant woman.
Deputy Mac Lochlainn said;
“I should not be making this speech tonight. The thousands of people who took to the streets in the freezing cold on Saturday to demand this Government introduce legislation for X should not have had to be there.
“The people have spoken and it is time for this government to introduce legislation for the X Case. The Government amendment to our motion simply notes that the Expert Group is examining the matter, and it will propose a range of options as to how the Government should respond to the “complex and sensitive issues.”
“Convening the Expert Group was a cop out on the government’s behalf. They have known since 1992 that legislation is needed when the Supreme Court judgment in X was handed down. This was reiterated by the European Court of Human Rights in 2010 when they delivered their judgment in the ABC v Ireland case.
“It is a scandal that for twenty years, seven governments have failed in their duties towards women on this issue. I was a teenager when the X case took place. Never did I think that I would be standing here, at nearly 40 years of age as an elected member of the Dáil seeking legislation on that very issue.
Women should know that if there life is in danger they will be saved – and doctors should know that if a woman’s life is in danger, they can treat them appropriately. It is time now, finally, for legislation to protect the rights of women as decided by the Supreme Court in 1992. This should be done in a reasoned, tolerant and considered manner and with maximum cross party consensus.”
ENDS
Note to Editors:
Speech as follows [check against delivery]

X Case PMB Speech: Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Sinn Féin should not have had to table this motion tonight.
I should not be making this speech tonight.

The thousands of people who took to the streets in the freezing cold on Saturday to demand this Government introduce legislation for X should not have had to be there.

They should not have had to march through the streets of Dublin and Galway, and hold vigils in towns around Ireland to make their voices heard when they said “never again.”

The Irish people who stand outside Irish Embassies in the United States, in Berlin, Vienna and London – exported by the vicious austerity policies of this and previous governments – should not be there tonight.

I do not for a second disregard the divisiveness of the broader issue of abortion rights and access in Ireland.

I am a person who believes in Christian values – values and teachings that are about love, compassion, respect and empathy. These are values that are not just central to me in life but also in how I conduct myself as a person elected to represent the people of my constituency.

I believe that my party’s policy as repeatedly agreed by our membership is in line with those values.

Sinn Féin is not in favour of abortion. We believe all possible means of education and support services should be in place. However, in cases of rape, incest and sexual abuse, or in which a woman’s life and mental health are at risk or in grave danger, Sinn Féin accepts that the final decision should rest with the woman concerned.

There are those who would argue against allowing abortion in the circumstances of rape and while I understand that for them it is an issue of conscience, I also know that rape and sexual crimes are one of the greatest violations a man can commit against a woman. Short of actually killing her, there is possibly nothing worse that a person could do a woman. It is a heinous crime.

I could not – and I would not – ask any woman to bear the child of her rapist.

The Rape Crisis Network of Ireland released statistics that showed in 2010 that 75 women who were pregnant as a result of rape used their services.

Due to the nature of underreporting of sexual crime, the real figure of women who found themselves in that situation is probably much, much higher.

RCNI said at the time, “The RCNI would have concerns that any rape survivor would be subject to restrictions and would have to travel oversees to another jurisdiction in order to access a termination….. Rape Crisis Centres will continue to support survivors in making decisions which survivors feel are the right choices for their circumstances.”

This is the key point. What is the right choice in their circumstance?

If abortion was to be allowed in those circumstances, no person would be compelled to have one. Even church teachings hold a deep regard for an individual’s conscience, and when discussing the matter of a woman who is pregnant as a result of rape, whose conscience takes priority?

The woman, a rape victim, seeking the procedure? Or the legislators who must provide a legal framework for her to access that?
This is a discussion that I can see taking place further down the road. And, like the grounds for X – it is something that we will end up revisiting.
But with regard to this evening’s motion. It is very simple.
The people have spoken and it is time for this government to introduce legislation for the X Case.
The Government amendment to our motion simply notes that the Expert Group is examining the matter, and it will propose a range of options as to how the Government should respond to the “complex and sensitive issues.”
Convening the Expert Group was a cop out on the government’s behalf. They have known since 1992 that legislation is needed when the Supreme Court judgment in X was handed down.
This was reiterated by the European Court of Human Rights in 2010 when they delivered their judgment in the ABC v Ireland case.
It is a scandal that for twenty years, seven governments have failed in their duties towards women on this issue. I was a teenager when the X case took place. Never did I think that I would be standing here, at nearly 40 years of age as an elected member of the Dáil seeking legislation on that very issue.
The Expert Group was convened as a way of delaying matters further. It was a way of ensuring that government TDs did not have to come in to the Dáil chamber and place on the record where they stood on this.
There was a time when the Labour party called for legislation to X, however this call has now developed in to a more nuanced position of calling for “legal clarity.” We must be clear in saying that a statutory instrument will not suffice. This matter requires primary legislation.
If a statutory instrument is produced, Government members know full well that it will be subject to legal challenge – but it may be an opportunity to put off the inevitable of legislating for just a little bit longer.
Over the past week my inbox has been filled with emails from people from my constituency demanding not that “something be done about it,” but making a very clear demand – “you must legislate for X.”
This is a motion that calls for legislation to provide women with access to abortions in cases where there is risk to their life. That is not to be hyperbolic – we must make no mistake about this – it is about life and death situations.
No pregnant woman in Ireland should ever have to worry that if something goes wrong in her pregnancy she will be faced with a medical practitioner who refuses her the necessary treatment because of a legal vacuum that legislators in this house have stood over for twenty years.
Women should know that if there life is in danger they will be saved – and doctors should know that if a woman’s life is in danger, they can treat them appropriately.
I have heard people say throughout the course of this debate that there is no medical condition in which a pregnant woman would need an abortion to save her life.
While I’m conscious that there is an inquiry in to the death of Savita Halappanavar, I would respectfully suggest that her grieving husband Praveen would beg to differ on that point – and the husband of Sheila Hodgers may agree with him.
The death of Savita Halappanavar has shocked and saddened people right across Ireland. It has underlined in the most tragic way possible the need for long overdue legislation in this state.
This government has stated its intention to bring forward legislation but successive governments have failed to deal with this issue for 20 years.
It is time now, finally, for legislation to protect the rights of women as decided by the Supreme Court in 1992. This should be done in a reasoned, tolerant and considered manner and with maximum cross party consensus.
On this basis, Sinn Féin has brought forward a Dáil motion that seeks, in a measured and reasoned way, to get the Irish government to act and to fulfil its responsibilities so that appalling situations, such as that which led to the death of Savita Halappanavar, can never happen in this country again.

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