Labour, Fine Gael, and Fianna Fáil Deputies have yet again displayed their hypocrisy and cowardice on the issue of abortion. Tonight in Dáil Éireann they voted against the ‘Medical Treatment (Termination of Pregnancy in Case of Risk to Life of Pregnant Women) (No 2) Bill’. It was defeated by 101 votes to 27.
The primary reasons given by Government TD’s for rejecting the Bill were that they did not have enough time to discuss it and that the Bill itself was flawed. However, these excuses are not valid.
The Government had at least two means by which they could have given the issue proper time for debate. As was pointed out by Deputies Barrett and Halligan, the Government could have either given over some of their own Dáil time to the discussion, or shortened the Christmas Holiday period.
If Clare Daly’s Bill contained imperfections, those could have been addressed at the Committee Stage. The vote on the Second Stage of a Bill is intended to determine whether Deputies agree with the principle of the Bill. Yet, almost all Government Deputies who spoke insisted that they are determined to legislate for the X Case. One must conclude that their reasons for voting the Bill down were purely political.
The cowardice of the Labour Party in particular must be noted. Their manifesto explicitly stated their commitment to legislate for the X Case. Yet when provided with the opportunity to do so, they cynically sat with their Fine Gael partners and voted it down.
This result will lead to even more delays in resolving this issue. Minister Reilly has indicated that the Government will decide on a course of action before Christmas. This means that they will not take concrete action on this issue until the New Year. This is unacceptable.
Even if a Bill were to be tabled in February, which is unlikely given the Government’s track record on this issue, legislation would not come into force for months. The only downside to legislation given by the Expert Group was the time that it would take to process. This Bill offered an immediate start to this process.
Women in Ireland do not have any more time to wait. Six months ago Savita wasn’t even pregnant. Now, she is tragically dead. Yet our representatives continue to sit on their hands and insist that they need more time.
The scenes at the Dáil this evening display the outrage of people at this utter failure by the Government.
Sarah McCarthy, Galway Pro-Choice member stated:
“The attitude of our public representatives towards this issue is appalling. It is incredible how out of touch they are with the people of Ireland. Only a handful of them sat in the Dáil Chamber to hear the debate, yet they flooded in to vote down this Bill to protect women’s lives. Shame on them!”
Rachel Donnelly, Galway Pro-Choice member said:
“What was proposed in the Dail tonight was a basic minimum – it didn’t even allow for abortion in cases of rape, fatal foetal abnormalities, or any of the myriad of other reasons women need abortions. But the government still voted against it, for what can only be interpreted as purely political reasons.”
History has shown that Irish government politicians will not act on this issue of their own accord. We the people must force them to act by getting out on the streets to protest.
To this end, Galway Pro Choice will be hosting a national march to call for immediate legislation on the X Case this Saturday, the 1st of December. The march will assemble at the Spanish Arch at 2.00 pm, proceed down Shop Street to Eyre Square, then to Derek Nolan TD’s office at the docks. After pausing there it will return to the Spanish Arch for speeches.