Government Split Over Abortion Bill
The government is divided over how to respond to a private member’s bill to widen access to abortion. Most ministers, including some who say they support what the bill is trying to achieve, will oppose it due to the fact that it is unconstitutional, but others insist they want a free vote that would allow them to support the abortion bill.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny clashed with members of the Independent Alliance, who are demanding a free vote on the bill that would allow for abortions in cases where the baby is diagnosed with a “fatal foetal abnormality”. The Taoiseach was forced to adjourn Tuesday's Cabinet meeting without agreement after ministers Shane Ross and Finian McGrath had insisted that TDs should be allowed a free vote.
Fine Gael members of Cabinet insisted that the bill could not be supported as the Attorney General has advised Minister for Health Simon Harris that the bill, which was tabled by 'Independent 4 Change' TD Mick Wallace, is unconstitutional. Minister Harris has made clear that he supports, in principle, the greater availability of abortion that the bill aims to achieve. “The Taoiseach simply made the point that the advice of the Attorney General is concrete and must be respected. You can’t have ministers voting against the advice of the Attorney General,” said one minister.
But junior minister John Halligan, who is a member of the Independent Alliance, has said that he wants to see the AG’s advice in writing. He said he will not oppose the bill, but is considering the possibility of abstaining on the vote.
The strongly pro-abortion Children’s Minister, Katherine Zappone, confirmed that she would not be supporting Mr Wallace’s abortion bill. A spokesman said that Minister Zappone feels the Citizen’s Assembly, which is soon to be established, offers the “fastest route” for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, which gives equal status to the right to life of the mother and the unborn child.
Irish Independent. June 29. RTÉ. July 1. RTÉ. June 23.