Originally published in Lifesite News
With some 60 000 participants, the All Ireland Rally for Life, held in Dublin on Saturday, was the largest pro-life event in Irish history, organisers have said. Participants expressed their opposition to the government’s proposed abortion bill, and demanded a referendum, required by Irish law to overturn the nation’s constitutional pro-life provisions, carrying signs saying, “Let us vote.”
The majority party of the ruling coalition, Fine Gael, was warned that “a new political alternative,” in the form of a new pro-life party, would emerge by the next election if they did not keep their election promise never to legalize abortion.
Fine Gael not only refused to allow a free vote last week on the bill’s first reading, it summarily sacked the four TDs who voted against the party, demanding that they vacate their offices within 24 hours of the vote.
“Let those Senators and TDs use the power granted to them under article 27 of our constitution to let the people speak on this bill,” democracy campaigner Declan Ganley, who led the fight for Irish sovereignty against the Lisbon Treaty of the European Union, told the crowd at Sunday’s rally. “Let us vote. Let us pass judgment on Enda Kenny’s abortion bill in a referendum. He says his book is the constitution.”
Ganley’s address to the crowd on Saturday followed a speech at a public meeting in Dublin on Wednesday. “An alternative for Ireland must respect the conscience of every citizen and legislator,” he said. “It cannot adopt the politics of telling people how to vote on an issue as deeply personal as abortion.”
Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute said at the rally, “If you refuse, Taoiseach (Prime Minister), to let the people vote, then the people will be heard. 100 000 people have already signed the pro-life pledge, 100 000 will seek to build a new political alternative, 100 000 will remember Taoiseach, that if you ram through this law, you are the abortion Taoiseach and Fine Gael is the abortion party, and they will seek an alternative which protects both mother and baby.”
“This is not just about abortion, it’s about democracy and letting the people decide on this hugely important issue. A recent Amárach poll told us that a huge 86 per cent of people supported the right of the people to decide the issue by referendum,” she added.
With the right to life of the unborn explicitly protected by the Irish Constitution, normally any attempt to legalise abortion would have to be put to a referendum. Pro-abortion lobbyists have long known that such a bid would fail, however, with most of the public outside Dublin in favour of constitutional rights for the unborn. Accordingly they have sought alternate methods to skirt the constitutional provisions.
The current bill has been put forward at the behest of the pro-abortion Labour Party, in response to a 2010 decision by the European Court of Human Rights. The ECHR case was the latest in a long series of lawsuits sponsored by, among others, International Planned Parenthood and the Family Planning Association.
Health Minister and sponsor of the bill, Dr James Reilly, said this weekend that he will introduce a set of amendments that will change the wording of the bill, which would legalise direct abortion through all nine months of pregnancy in cases of threat to the life of the mother, including if she threatens suicide. The amendment would add the phrase, “being an opinion formed in good faith which has regard to the need to preserve unborn human life as far as practicable” into the provision to allow for abortion in cases of threatened suicide, a change that pro-life campaigners have described as “meaningless.”
Despite the bill containing wording that, for the first time in Irish history, legalises the direct and intentional killing of an unborn child, Taoiseach Enda Kenny continues to insist that it does not change the law, but merely “clarifies” the legal situation. Currently Irish law allows for medical procedures that may unintentionally cause the death of the unborn child if necessary to save the life of the mother, but not direct abortion.
Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton has also tabled amendments that would: remove the section citing suicidal ideation as grounds for a termination; require a legal advocate make the case for the unborn when abortion is requested; impose gestational term limits beyond which abortions cannot be carried out; and reduce from 14 years to five years the maximum penalties for women convicted under the act.
Responding to Reilly’s claim to the national radio broadcaster that TDs had “signed up for this” in the election manifesto, Creighton tweeted that the minister should not be trying to “mislead people.” During the last election campaign, Enda Kenny, leader of Fine Gael, rather than promising legal abortion had made a specific promise never to legislate for it. But the vote in the general election did not allow the party to form a majority government, forcing a coalition with the expressly pro-abortion Labour.
The Institute of Family and Marriage has called the bill legally “repugnant” in its “inherent savagery” of allowing children to be killed, and have also argued that it is premised on a series of legal contradictions.
“Under this bill,” they said, “a woman is considered sane (has the capacity to consent) at one and the same time as believing she should end her life because she is pregnant. This is irrational as it would make, in law, suicide to be a rational and sane decision.”
The bill also “legitimises a woman to authorise the killing of any person” to “alleviate her suicidal thoughts on the basis of that is what she wants to do,” they said. It introduces into law the idea that a court can make decisions based on a prediction of what might happen in the future, “whereas the law rationally restricts a court to making a finding on certain evidence.” Finally, they said that the bill “fails to acknowledge the position of the family/husband in relation to the pregnancy of a wife.”
A poll commissioned by the Pro Life Campaign found that a large majority of the Irish public do not want abortion legalised for cases of suicide. Respondents were asked to scale their support or opposition to abortion “if it were clearly shown that abortion is not a suitable treatment for a pregnant woman with suicidal feelings.” Of those who expressed an opinion, 60 percent said they would be ‘very unlikely’ or ‘unlikely’ to support abortion on such grounds.
Asked about “constitutional protection for the unborn that prohibits abortion but allows the existing practice of intervention to save a mother’s life in accordance with Irish medical ethics,” of those who expressed an opinion 69 percent were in favour with just 31 percent opposed.
These findings contrast with polls taken by the secular press that showed majority support for abortion on the suicide ground, but those polls did not include information on the lack of medical evidence for abortion as a treatment for suicidal ideation.
Pro Life Campaign spokesman Caroline Simons said, “The Government is fully aware from two sets of Oireachtas hearings that there is no medical evidence that abortion is an appropriate response to a suicide threat but they have refused to present this reality to the public.
The bill is set to come before the Dáil again this week with a vote scheduled to be held at 10 pm on Wednesday.