On Tuesday evening the Dail voted at second stage on the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill (2013 ). As expected four of our Fine Gael TDs (Peter Matthews, Brian Walsh, Billy Timmins and Terence Flanagan ) very courageously voted against the Bill. Next week, I, too will vote against the abortion bill. More FG colleagues are expected to follow in the coming days.
This is not an easy decision given the implications for us as Fine Gael Oireachtas members, losing the whip, expulsion from the parliamentary party and an uncertain, if any, political future. Nevertheless, the one factor that binds us is that we feel compelled to answer to our conscience given the compelling evidence, and put the principle of life, both the mother's and the unborn's life, before politics.
One of the major problems in this fraught debate over the Government’s abortion legislation, and the debate over abortion itself, is that it is often unfairly portrayed as a battle between women and their unborn children.
As a woman, I find this belittling and deceiving. This is to miss the point entirely. Women every step of the way deserve better than abortion and if we genuinely care for women in crisis, more unborn babies can live.
If this Bill were purely about clarifying the circumstances in which doctors can give life-saving treatments to pregnant women in situations where this might cause, as an unsought for side-effect, the death of her child, no-one would be opposed to it. To quote one woman who wrote to me last week:
“This Bill is particularly important to me because I am a woman, I am a psychologist and I am pregnant. This legislation is meant for me. It is meant to make me feel more protected in pregnancy, but it does not. I know that as things currently stand in Ireland without any legislation that I will not be denied any treatment needed to save my life even if it leads to the unintentional death of my baby. I feel fully protected by that.”
Deception in the Bill
Could the deception in this Bill be summarised any more clearly? The legislation suggests that the deliberate killing of unborn children is needed to save women’s lives. It says that abortion can be a treatment for suicidal ideas and thoughts. Not true.
Is it any wonder 113 Psychiatrists and medical doctors at both the IMO and ICGP conferences do not support abortion on grounds of threatened suicide, knowing, as they do, that abortions under Section 9 of this Bill do not constitute best care for women?
There was no medical evidence for this when the Supreme Court ruled in the X Case and there is no medical evidence for it now, and yet the Bill’s advocates, a Government of which I am part, are claiming that this is about 'saving women's lives'. The reality is that it is about ending babies’ lives and jeopardising women’s health and well-being in the process.
Abortion is a supposed solution to an unwanted pregnancy. Many countries with liberal abortion regimes are trying to row back, yet our Taoiseach is insistent that this is the 'restrictive' way forward. It hasn’t been elsewhere. And some Labour TDs have admitted they see it as a stepping stone to achieving abortion on request in Ireland.
Abortion is not doing women a favour and no matter how you dress it up, it involves the taking of human life*. Moreover, the Bill gives us an excuse to neglect our duty towards women in crisis pregnancy. The debate we should be having is why women feel they have no choice but abortion - the social, cultural, family and financial causes that cause women distress and the supports we need to put in place to help women in crisis pregnancy and beyond.
Abortion is not in women’s best interests. It is a double negative for the woman. It ends her child’s life, and the stories of those from 'Women Hurt' and the story of the girl at the centre of the C case shows how it can devastate lives too.
I have met Ms. C who was only 13 years old at the time she was raped and became pregnant. Her testimony suggests that the HSE by taking her to England for abortion against her family's wishes robbed her of at least 10 years of her life and has left her battling to rebuild her mental health after suicide attempts, as a result of the abortion. She had been under the impression that she was going to England to 'get the baby out'. She didn’t know that her baby would die.
As a society we should be talking about more hopeful and positive solutions for our women who are not ready to be parents. Adoption is one such solution. Today, I am a parent, a mother, because two birth mothers chose life. This is not an uncommon story but it makes me acutely aware of the chance life is.
The irony is that thousands of Irish families travel abroad to adopt babies every year while thousands of our own women travel to have abortions. Handled well, adoption placements can be a positive and life-giving outcome for child, birth mother, and adoptive parents.
And instead of pretending that abortion is a treatment for suicide, we should be examining how to deal with the everyday horror suicide brings to families in Ireland. We should look at the care, treatment and supports really needed to help people at risk of suicide and not, through this Bill, be legitimising it.
One can't but question why we don't use this opportunity as a nation to be different and come up with more hopeful, less violent,s solutions than abortion for women and the unborn. I refuse to choose between our women and the unborn. The taking of the life of another can never be reduced to a private choice’. It is a matter of public concern.This is why I'm asking my colleagues in Fine Gael to think again before voting for this Bill, while the suicide clause remains.
There has to be a better way to build a more compassionate and caring Ireland.