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The Abortion Debate: Pro-Life TDs say their piece this week

Whilst the referendum Bill has now passed to the Senate a number of pro-life TDs spoke out this week against the Bill and in favour of the right to life of the unborn. Here’s some of what they said:

Mattie McGrath, IND, Tipperary

“I am pleased to be able to speak on the Bill. I have many concerns about its very rushed nature, which I will address in my remarks. The manner in which the Government has dealt with this referendum Bill has been nothing short of disgraceful”

“We now know the decision of the Supreme Court to reject the High Court finding that the unborn child enjoyed significant constitutional protections beyond the eighth amendment was an historic lost opportunity. The decision of the Supreme Court was profoundly disturbing to me and many others. It has demonstrated with absolute clarity the eighth amendment is now the only defence the unborn child has against arbitrary decisions of a future Oireachtas and politicians on the extent and grounds upon which abortion may be obtained, and we know this”

“While I do not believe the eighth amendment will be repealed, regardless of today's decision, I do think that if the Government's hostile, manipulative and aggressively pro-choice agenda is successfully perpetrated upon the people, then the court's decision may be seen as the Irish equivalent of Roe v. Wade all that time ago in the United States”“ Ms Halappanavar's husband appeared on radio with Ms Marian Finucane five weeks after the incident. We sympathise 100% with the loss of his wife and the mother of his expected baby. He was asked whether he wanted abortion introduced into Ireland. D'fhreagar sé an ceist by saying that he did not. This was on live radio”

Bobby Aylward, FF, Kilkenny

“I am a pro-life person and a pro-life politician .....   If we remove the eighth amendment of the Constitution, we will relinquish all protection of the unborn in the Constitution for good. ..... I must keep an eye on the future in this regard. Future Governments with a strong majority, whether they lean hard to the left or hard to the right, could make further legislative change which the people of Ireland may have no control over. That is important. The people have to think about that before they vote at the end of May. If they give away the protection the unborn have at the moment, they must consider that they will never again have a say in legislation to protect the unborn.”

Mary Butler, FF, Waterford

“We have to be quite clear, however, that we are speaking about the life of the unborn child. Everything to be found in a fully grown person is formed in a baby at eight weeks in the womb...... People have come on journeys and changed their positions. I firmly believe in the journey of conception to birth. I firmly believe in the nine-month journey that when a baby is conceived, the baby deserves the right to life.”

Michael Collins, IND, Cork S/W

“Two years ago we celebrated the centenary of the 1916 Rising. When we think of the Rising, every one of us thinks of the Proclamation. An essential sentence in the Proclamation is the promise to cherish the children of the nation equally. Let us not sully the memory of those who fought for our nation's freedom by taking away the right to life from society’s most vulnerable. Let us cherish the children of the nation equally at every stage of life from beginning to end. Let us not allow abortion to become legal in our country. Let us instead make sure that no mother feels she has to end the life of her child because she sees no other way out. Let us provide families in difficult situations with what they need to raise their child. Let us work together to make sure no child in this country is thought of as a choice but rather as a valued human being. Let us ensure that every child in Ireland is given the right to life.

Let us stand up for mothers and their unborn babies. Let us protect the eighth amendment. In doing so, we would be doing something truly radical and positive by speaking up for life at a time when other countries have lost respect for the dignity and value of each new and unique individual. There is nothing radical about bringing in laws like other countries that have been shown over the past 40 years to discriminate against unborn babies up to birth. Let us be truly radical. Let us speak up for life and defend the eighth amendment with every ounce of energy we have.”

Eugene Murphy, FF, Roscommon/Galway

“If we go for what is suggested on the 12 weeks option, abortion would become normalised in our society... Several doctors in my constituency have approached me and asked me not to vote for repeal. They are reluctant, however, to talk in the media. Tonight, I ask them to speak out. While there are others who say we should support repealing the eighth amendment, I ask the medical people who have difficulties with repealing it to come out to state this is where they stand and let people know of their concerns. I cannot support what is proposed by the Government and I will be voting to retain the eighth amendment.”

Carol Nolan, SF, Offaly

“My party is in favour of repealing the eighth amendment in specific cases. However, my personal opinion is that the eighth amendment should be retained, as I am proud to say that I have strong pro-life views. We are all aware of the fact that unborn babies are the most vulnerable in our society. Surely then, as a society, we must protect them and embrace each and every child, and their differences, as an inclusive society. The eighth amendment has saved 100,000 lives since 1983, and I am sure we have all heard the personal accounts of young women who have stated that they were glad the eighth amendment was in place when they experienced crisis pregnancies.”

“The recent ruling of the Supreme Court was a wake-up call to us all in this State. We are faced with a clear decision in the forthcoming referendum. We can chose to retain the eighth amendment, which is the only legal protection for unborn babies under which doctors in Irish hospitals protect the lives of both patients - the mother and the baby - or we can repeal the eighth amendment and face the prospect of abortion being normalised in this State.”

Eamon O’Cuiv, FF, Galway

“There are people who believe that unborn children are not human beings. As a parent and a grandparent, as well as looking at science, I cannot go along with the theory that they are only potential human beings.   Savita Halappanavar has been mentioned many times in this debate. Unfortunately, that event happened in my constituency. When one looks at the reports, however, it is quite clear that mismanagement was at the heart of that issue. If the only way of saving her life had been to intervene, of course the law allowed that intervention. What the Irish people have been asked to do is to give this House carte blanche into the distant future into what it might do regarding abortion and, as developments take place that were already referenced to the people, that the House could do what it willed. Talking about Bills which might be proposed is of limited importance because once one opens the door here, there is no closing it again.

Seán Barrett, FG, Dún Laoghaire

“I am saying to the people to keep what we have. We should keep what we have because the right to life of the unborn is important.”

Peadar Toibin, SF, Meath East

“The Taoiseach states he is pro-choice, but he ignores the fact that he has created the economic circumstances that lead so many women to believe they do not have a choice. I believe that if he is actually pro-choice, he should lift families out of poverty; fund child care, housing and health care services; and provide a decent living wage for women in order that they will believe they have a future and that there is hope and a choice for them.”

“In the Sunday newspapers the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, stated she had been ignorant when she was pro-life. If she was ignorant, that was her responsibility because no elected representative should come into this Chamber and speak on the issue unless he or she has carried out research and listened to the people on both sides of the debate. She has also stated a "No" vote might not be expected. What kind of a slap in the face to the democratic process is it when a Minister alludes to the holding of a second referendum before the date of the first one has been selected?”

Dara Calleary, FF, Mayo

“The certainty of protection for the unborn child and the mother in Bunreacht na hÉireann will be replaced by the uncertainty of subjecting it, or a future House, to the art of political negotiation which, by its nature, is uncertain and Byzantine. It can often depend on the make-up of a Dáil, which can change from election to election. I firmly believe the right of an unborn child or its mother deserves more than that and more than just being an agenda item for political negotiation.”

Michael Moynihan, FF, Cork N/W

“I am standing by what is in the Constitution and it should not be repealed. No Oireachtas should be allowed to make a decision as fundamental as the one we are about to make.”

Eamon Scanlon, Sligo/Leitrim

“No informed vote can be taken without advance knowledge of the legal consequences of the approval of the proposed change. Clarity, from the Government and all who campaign for approval, is the essential factor.”

“If Article 43.3.3° is repealed it is inevitable that legislators in the future will not stop at the 12 week threshold but will extend it. In a recent a Supreme Court ruling, seven judges unanimously decided that the only right the unborn baby had was the right to life. It is ironic that we are debating taking away this right to life today.”

“Essentially, one of my disagreements with putting in that particular provision is that it allows Deputies to decide the matter. I want the people to think about this. As I said, very important issues are dealt with in the Constitution and I would consider the issue of life and death to be a matter for the people to decide rather than Deputies. I am concerned that Deputies want to take too much power for themselves.”

Sean Fleming, FF, Laois

“Essentially, one of my disagreements with putting in that particular provision is that it allows Deputies to decide the matter. I want the people to think about this. As I said, very important issues are dealt with in the Constitution and I would consider the issue of life and death to be a matter for the people to decide rather than Deputies. I am concerned that Deputies want to take too much power for themselves.”

Charlie McConalogue, FF, Donegal

“At the outset I want to indicate my own position, which is that I am not in favour of repealing the eighth amendment. I believe it is important that the right to life of the unborn is recognised in the Constitution, which is our primary guiding document. It is a very important principle and is something which should be contained in the Constitution.”

Sean Canney, IND

“I do not favour the repeal of the eighth amendment. From my life's experience, I know life is very precious. For me, the life of the unborn is precious and needs to be protected.”

Aindrias Moynihan, FF

“The courts have looked at the rights an unborn child would have, if any, and decided that there is only one, namely, the right to be born. I think it would be ironic if we were now to take that one away and leave a gap or a vacuum. While I understand that there is proposed legislation to be put in its place, there is no certainty that would come through. Again, the fundamental aspect for me, having spoken with many people at home on this, is the question of life. For that reason, I am not in a position to support the Bill. I will certainly support the retention of the eighth amendment.”

Danny Healy-Rae, IND, Kerry

“I wish to reiterate my firm belief that life begins when a baby begins to grow inside a woman.”

“No one in this world has the right to take the life of another. There has been a lot of talk about babies throughout the country. Whether it is a growing child, a mother, a father or anyone else - even an elderly man living in the countryside who is killed by some blackguards - that is wrong, and it is wrong to take the life of an unborn baby. Only God decides when a life should end, and it is a good job it is that way.”

Kevin O’Keefe, FF, Cork East

“We had a Supreme Court decision two days ago and it highlighted for me the importance of the eighth amendment in this country and the amount of lives saved. I am concerned with the way we are moving forward. While some say it should have been started before now, there seems to be an effort now to rush the process through to get everyone in the electorate on board because people feel that they can take for granted the electorate in various quarters - that is to say students - but I assure Members that there are many students who are against the repeal of the eighth amendment. Do not get carried away and think that any sector of society is under control.”

“We talk about giving women recognition. While I said things are slow, during the last 12 months as a Dáil we have extended parental leave rights to the husband. The husband must have a part to play with the newborn as well and in the creation of the newborn. As a man, I feel no problem in speaking here even though I am single. Talking to other people, it is felt that the man plays no role. I respect the rights of women”

Peter Fitzpatrick, FG, Louth

“A few weeks ago, a group of volunteers visited my home town of Dundalk as part of the "Lives Saved" tour. They were there to highlight the number of people who are alive in the Louth region thanks to the eighth amendment - an estimated 2,900 people. These are people who are walking around the streets of Louth, going to school or college, building lives of their own. They are not invisible statistics but they and their families have been invisible in the debate so far.”

“I have listened to the Minister talking about improving supports for women and their babies but it is strange to be discussing them during this debate. How can we be realistic about providing supports on the one hand while on the other we are saying that it is okay to end the life of a baby? This is what it boils down to. Abortion ends the life of a baby. The unborn baby is not a clump of cells and we need to be honest about that”

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