The Irish Catholic in its edition of July 5th reports that Fine Gael is preparing to legalise abortion in Ireland Minister for Health Dr James Reilly has told colleagues. In a move that will spark fury, the party is preparing to do a u-turn on a commitment given to pro-life voters before the 2011 general election that they would not introduce abortion legislation.
In a letter to colleagues in the Fine Gael parliamentary party Dr Reilly said that Ireland “must” bring in abortion along the lines of the 1992 Supreme Court decision in the X Case.
Mr Reilly insists that he will legislate to provide “effective and accessible procedures whereby pregnant women can establish whether or not they are entitled to a lawful abortion”.
This is despite the fact that the Government is still awaiting the report of an ‘expert group’ on the issue following a 2010 decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that Ireland must clarify its law on abortion. However, the court found that Ireland had a right to ban abortion and did not, as some have claimed, mean Ireland must legislate for abortion.
Minister Reilly hinted at such an approach during the recent Dáil debate on abortion, but this is the first time he has been so starkly explicit about his plans.
Responding to the Minister’s comments, Dr Ruth Cullen of the Pro-Life Campaign (PLC) said: “Minister Reilly’s commitment to abortion legislation is now explicit and public.
“He has not only pre-empted the report of the Expert Group on abortion, but more worryingly, he is making it clear that he expects a narrow range of options from that Group, all leading to abortion in Ireland. This effectively turns the entire Expert Group process into a farce,” she said.
Dr Cullen said the latest comments from the Minister “one hundred percent undermine Fine Gael’s pre-election pro-life commitment that ‘women in pregnancy will receive whatever treatments are necessary to safeguard their lives, and that the duty of care to preserve the life of the baby will also be upheld.’
“Minister Reilly knows full well that Ireland is not compelled by the European court to introduce an abortion regime here following the decision in A, B and C v. Ireland. He is also aware that Ireland, without abortion, is the safest country in the world for pregnant women...disgracefully, however, he has chosen to ignore all this critically important evidence when making public comment,” she said.
Dr Cullen said that the PLC will mount “an even more vigorous campaign” to ensure that abortion is not legalised and to ensure “that every Fine Gael voter the length and breadth of the country is fully informed” of the party’s shift away from its pre-election pro-life commitments.
The 1992 Supreme Court judgement in the ‘X’ case involved a 14-year-old girl who had become pregnant as a result of rape. The girl’s claim to be experiencing suicidal thoughts because of the unwanted pregnancy led the court to rule that the girl had the right to an abortion in Ireland because there was “a real and substantial risk” to her life. However, successive government have refused to pass legislation regulating abortion in such cases. Dr Cullen also pointed out the fact that “the peer-reviewed research in the intervening years since the X decision highlights the negative effects for significant numbers of women who have undergone abortion, including serious depression and increased incidence of suicide”.