Rosie McCorley MLA speaks against the Justice Bill Amendment
My colleague Caitríona Ruane has already laid out the Sinn Fein position on abortion very clearly but I will do so again for the benefit of those who clearly weren’t listening. For the record, I wish to clearly state where Sinn Féin stands on this issue. Ba mhaith liom seasamh SF ar an cheist seo a lua go soiléir. I do that because there would appear to be some confusion and misinformation around this difficult issue. So let me be very clear.
Sinn Féin is not in favour of abortion on demand and we have consistently opposed the extension of the 1967 Act to the north of Ireland.However, in circumstances where a pregnancy arises as a result of rape, incest, sexual abuse, or in cases where a woman’s life or mental health are in danger, Sinn Féin’s position is that the decision on whether or not to seek a termination must rest with the woman.
I gcasanna mar sin, creideann Sinn Féin go gcaithfidh an cinneadh a bheith ag an bhean.
The amendment which is being put forward accepts that there are circumstances, such as when the woman’s life is in danger, where a termination of pregnancy can take place and the law allows for that. All parties in this Assembly accept that, as does Sinn Féin. Over the past number of days we have heard Paul Givan and Alban Maginess state that position also on the radio although you would hardly think so when you listen to some of what is being said today.
The actual thrust of the amendment is about where a termination can take place. Baineann éirim iarbhír an leasaithe leis an láthair is féidir foirceannadh a dhéanamh.
Specifically it seeks to limit that to places only which are authorised by the Health and Social Care Trust. The underlying premise is that only the Health Service is capable of carrying out termination procedures within the law; however, there is no evidence to support that argument.Sinn Féin argues that we should not be limiting the way in which women are forced to deal with very difficult life threatening situations. We should rather be demanding that they have access to the very best health care possible. Ba choir dúinn bheith ag cinntiú go bhfuil an cúram sláinte is fearr ar fáil do mná. And given the massive pressures on our Health Service, surely it makes more sense that if a woman requires a termination within the requirements of the law, should she not be free to decide for herself where and when that takes place? So whether a termination is carried out under the Health Service or within a private clinic is not the issue as long as the procedure is carried out safely and within the law. And of course the necessary regulation and safeguards must be put in place. Agus is cinnte go gcaithfidh an rialachán riachtanach a bheith in áit.
When Marie Stopes International gave evidence to the committee they stated clearly that they would comply with regulation if that were put in place; they also said they had no intention of breaking the law. So the focus should be on putting regulation in place and if the law is broken then it is a matter for the PSNI.
But this is not the way to make law on very important and emotive issues. We shouldn’t be bolting it on to the end of the Criminal Justice Bill as though it were merely an insignificant add-on that requires no consultation or discussion. If ever there was an issue that demanded the maximum consultation and discussion surely this is it. Má bhí ceist ann riamh a raibh an méid comhairliúcháin is mó de dhíth air is cinnte gur seo í an cheist.
So, we should step back and reject this amendment and think instead about having a proper debate on this issue. We should listen to all the voices concerned so that when we come to make law it will be in a sympathetic, considered and informed manner. And finally, rather than criminalise some of the decisions that vulnerable women may make, we should focus instead on ensuring that when a woman’s life is in danger she has access to necessary healthcare. The foundational principle of equality for all, requires protecting women’s lives in our society in all medical circumstances. We should never place barriers in the way of women which make their decisions more difficult than they already are.Tá me in aghaidh an leasaithe. I oppose the amendment.