It is with great regret that I am today publicly confirming that having reflected on the proposed abortion bill (Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill, 2013) I have concluded that I cannot in conscience support it.
I am deeply disappointed that I find myself having to vote against my party, Fine Gael, on this bill. This morning I informed the party leader and Fine Gael Headquarters of my decision. I explained that I would not be supporting the Bill while the suicide clause remains. I also contacted officers of my local Maree Fine Gael branch who were very supportive and understood that I had to answer to my conscience on this fundamental moral issue. Some were particularly disappointed that Fine Gael was breaking its pre-election, prolife promise.
I do not believe this proposal is good for women and I know that it is not good for unborn children. It is an unjust and dangerous bill permitting abortion on a threat of suicide without any sound psychiatric basis.
I believe that if this Bill is passed, it will mark the beginning of a culture change in Ireland, a normalisation of abortion in Irish society and a loss of respect for the most vulnerable and weak among us.
I want to state clearly that the case for medical intervention to save a woman’s life in pregnancy has never been in dispute, and I have consistently made clear that if further clarification is needed in this regard, I welcome it.
However, I cannot stand over a bill that will make it legal to intentionally destroy unborn human life where there isn’t a shred of medical evidence to justify it.
And I have looked for that evidence. I can genuinely say I have informed myself. I listened intently and participated in the Oireachtas Health Committee Hearings on abortion in January and May of this year. If I thought there was any evidence at all that a suicidal pregnant woman’s life could be saved by ending her pregnancy, then I would be voting for this Bill. That evidence, despite two sets of consultations with expert psychiatrists was simply not forthcoming.
The reality is that experts from both sides of this debate accepted that abortion was not a treatment or a cure for a pregnant woman with suicidal intent. They agreed that the appropriate treatment was to deal with the underlying illness or crisis to help the pregnant woman carry her baby to term.
Given this overwhelming evidence, I cannot understand why the Government is still considering voting through this Bill.
Time Limits don’t exist
To make matters worse there are no time limits in this bill. This bill will legally allow abortions to be carried out for the full nine months of pregnancy. This is a horrendous scenario. We all know that many babies can survive outside the womb with adequate support from 24 weeks (and some from even earlier). We will now create a culture change in our public hospitals where one baby is being saved and one is being aborted at the same gestational age.
And the Government position that doctors will induce babies post viability to save their lives is far from ideal. In this scenario, many of those who survive risk disablement and long-term special needs – and being in State care.
It is disappointing that the Government at the very least did not introduce time limits which are the norm even in countries with very permissive abortion regimes. Even former Supreme Court Judge Catherine McGuinness in response to myself on this issue in the Hearings recommended that the Government should ‘give it a go’ and introduce time limits.
I do not accept the Minister for Health’s contention that this Bill will lead to ‘better patient outcomes’. It certainly doesn’t provide for better outcomes for the baby in the womb and I do not accept that it provides for better outcomes for a pregnant suicidal woman. If anything it is dangerous and misleading in that it gives the pregnant woman with suicidal intent the impression that she will be cured by an abortion. Whereas it is a proven fact that some women suffer negative mental health consequences after abortion. I have met many women who have had abortions and have told me of their negative lifelong experiences as a result. We have to acknowledge this.
With this Bill we are talking about a fundamental departure in terms of how we value life. If passed, this legislation will in time change the culture of our public hospitals and our country. We should never under-estimate the impact of cultural change that is brought about by a change in the law. It will make normal in Irish society what is currently not.
Let’s not forget that in countries like Britain where abortion is legal and most commonly obtained on mental health grounds, one in every four pregnancies ends in abortion.
We would be foolish to think that despite our best intentions as lawmakers, Ireland would somehow be different. We know from abortion advocates in Ireland that this is only the beginning .
As a country with respect for life, I believe we would be better served by asking our women who have had abortions what could have been different to help them not to have made that extremely difficult decision. We need to explore more compassionate hopeful solutions for our women in crisis. We can be a world leader on this front.
I believe that women’s lives should be protected and that the duty of care towards the unborn child should also remain.
Every human being deserves an equal chance at life.