Ireland: Bill to weaken abortion law defeated

A Bill to weaken Irish law to allow abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality has been rejected by the Irish Parliament.

Politicians voted 104 to 20 against the Bill, after the Irish Government was advised by the Attorney General that the plans would go against the country’s constitution.

The Eighth Amendment holds the right to life of the unborn child as equal to that of the mother.

Incompatible with life

Independent politician Clare Daly put forward the Bill, which would have allowed abortion if two doctors agreed that the unborn child had a condition which was “incompatible with life outside the womb”.

A campaign group for families with terminally ill babies met with politicians ahead of the vote, and criticised the focus on abortion in the Irish Parliament.

Members of ‘One Day More’ said better care services were needed, as many parents are not even aware of the option of hospice care when their child is diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality.

Very little help

Campaigner Jennifer Kehoe was told she should travel to England to have an abortion, as her daughter Louise was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect and brain disorder – but despite the diagnosis, she survived and is now almost five years old.

And fellow campaigner Maura O’Riordan said she was given “very little help” when her daughter Laura was diagnosed with Edwards Syndrome, a chromosomal condition causing internal organ defects.

Maura decided they would do whatever they could to look after Laura, who died seven months after she was born.

Incorrect diagnosis

The Christian Institute has highlighted stories of parents in the UK who were told their child had a fatal foetal abnormality but chose not to have an abortion.

Melanie and Damien Sheenan’s baby Joshua is now over a year old after doctors made an incorrect diagnosis of his condition in the womb.

Bonnie and Phil Walker’s daughter Grace was diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality in the womb, and she died shortly after birth.

Pure love

But the Walkers described the time they spent with baby Grace as “15 minutes of pure love”.

The Department of Justice in Northern Ireland recently consulted on weakening the law to allow abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and sexual crime.

The department has recommended that abortion should be permitted when the unborn child is deemed not to have a “viable” life.

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