A controversial Bill legalising abortion if doctors think the mother may commit suicide has cleared its first hurdle in the Irish Parliament.
Opponents say the Bill is a “Trojan horse” for abortion on demand in Ireland, but supporters say Ireland’s constitutional ban on abortion will remain.
Four members of the largest party in the Irish Parliament, Fine Gael, face being thrown out of the party for voting against the Bill.
Many pro-lifers argue that the legislation will open the door to future abortion-on-demand, by permitting it on wide-ranging grounds.
Caroline Simons of the Pro Life Campaign said: “The reality is that two psychiatrists of like mind can sign away an unborn child’s life on grounds that have nothing to do with bona fide medical treatment. There is nothing life-saving, just or restrictive about that.”
“The obstetrician required by law will have no role in certifying the eligibility for such abortions. In reality, it amounts to abortion on request. To state otherwise is dishonest.”
She added that the Government is ignoring evidence about abortion not being a treatment for suicidal feelings.
Religious affairs commentator David Quinn wrote in the Irish Independent that the Bill is “deeply illiberal” and “directly attacks conscience”.
He pointed out that the legislation would force pro-life doctors to refer women seeking an abortion to doctors willing to carry them out, and it would compel hospitals to perform abortions despite their particular ethos.
Mr Quinn said: “No truly liberal government would disrespect the conscience rights of individual citizens and institutions as profoundly as this one is.”
He also said: “There is a concerted attempt to delegitimise almost all opposition to the abortion bill and to tell the general public that if they want to be considered respectable members of society, then they should either shut up or support the bill.”
And senior Catholic leaders warned that the Bill would become a “Trojan horse” and lead to widespread access to abortion in the republic.
138 members of the Irish Parliament voted to give the controversial bill a second reading, with 24 voting against.
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny defended the legislation. He said: “To those who fear that this bill is the first step towards a liberal abortion regime in Ireland, I say clearly that this extremely restrictive bill is the only proposal that will be brought forward by this government on this issue”.