The abortion bill is being rammed through the Oireachtas heedless of the views of huge numbers of voters, writes Denise Kelly
Last week, the Government’s abortion Bill progressed with alarming speed through one of the most crucial stages of the parliamentary process, Committee Stage. It now returns to the Dáil where a significant proportion of the 180 amendments that were proposed will again be discussed before it passes to the Seanad and finally becomes (unjust) law.
However, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, repeatedly made clear during the Committee proceedings that the Bill will not be changed at any substantive level and ruled out any attempt to incorporate within the Bill anything remotely resembling a pro-life position.
That he did so even before he had heard a single word in defence of the pro-life amendments demonstrated early on that he had no intention of engaging in any kind of meaningful dialogue.
There are several striking, disturbing and stand-out moments from last week that highlight just how far and how quickly our political ‘representatives’ have travelled since the passing of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013.
Perhaps the most bewildering aspect overall was the repeated and almost gleefully unrestrained contempt that members of the Committee and the Minister displayed toward even the most humane of amendments, including pain relief for unborn children at 20 weeks gestation.
This attitude was further reflected in the astounding confession by the Minister at the committee’s first meeting, when he proudly announced that he “detested the language of the Eighth Amendment”.
Let us just remind ourselves of the language that the Minister “detested”.
“The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”
Sadly, that level of visceral loathing was echoed in most of the contributions, particularly those that attacked, undermined and misrepresented the 16 pro-life amendments that were tabled by those TDs brave enough to stand their ground and argue their case.
All of this, as mentioned above, is a far cry even from 2013.
During one Dáil debate on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill in June of that year, the then Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson, Billy Kelleher, made what would prove to be an irony-laden statement when he declared:
“It has been noted that when legislation was introduced in Britain in 1967 the outcome was more liberal than envisaged. That may be the case there but there is no chance of a liberal abortion-on-demand regime creeping into this country in the context of our constitutional obligation as legislators to vindicate the life of the unborn.”
How right he was.
Indeed how clear it now is that Deputy Kelleher’s statement has also, if unintentionally, confirmed what we in the Pro Life Campaign and others have been saying for years; in the event that the Eighth Amendment goes, nothing will stop the introduction of an extreme abortion regime.
The Committee proceedings of last week have amply proven that point.
They also confirmed the fact that proposals once considered to be on the furthest extremes of the ‘abortion rights’ agenda are now ‘mainstream’ in the sense that none of the political parties in the Oireachtas are willing to defend the pro-life position of 723,632 voters, to say nothing of the substantial number of reluctant ‘Yes Voters.’
What is truly lamentable is the fact that even yet, those who could stand up will not stand up. The possibility of a revolution for life is receding ever further, hastened by political expediency and a betrayal that even many Yes voters have already come to regret.
One in three people voted in favour of protecting life in last May’s referendum but these voters are being deprived of proper representation in Leinster House. What all of the developments of recent weeks and months point to is a need for those who believe in restoring a culture of life to work towards new and better representation in Dáil Éireann. We must set about bringing this about without delay.
Denise Kelly is a spokesperson for the Pro Life Campaign.