Small Cross-Party Band of Senators Defends Human Rights
A small cross-party group defended human rights in the Seanad against a majority who eagerly supported the abortion bill. Pro-life amendments were proposed by Senators Rónán Mullen (Ind.), Brian Ó Domhnaill (FF), and Paul Coghlan (FG). These were supported by Senators John O’Mahony (FG), Diarmuid Wilson (FF), and Robbie Gallagher (FF). Senator Maria Byrne (FG) supported an amendment that would have explicitly prohibited abortions on grounds of race, sex, or disability.
Senator O’Mahony declared his “total opposition to unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks.” “I support the right to protect the life and health of the mother,” he said, “but I also respect the life of the unborn. There must be compassion for both the mother and the unborn. Compassion is not something that can be compartmentalised.” “I respect the views of the health professionals who do not in any way want to be associated with this process. I am aware of the voice of the 66 per cent of people who voted in favour of the constitutional change and I respect it, but 33 per cent of people voted against it and their views need to be reflected here as well.”
Senator David Norris (Ind.) spoke in support of the right of doctors to practice medicine in accordance with their consciences. “I am strongly in favour of the woman’s right to choose,” he said, “but I respect people’s conscience and it is important that we do so. It is correct that there are exceptions in order that doctors who have a conscientious objection are not coerced into performing abortion but, from a principled point of view, if one has a deep aversion and objection to abortion, it is also a violation and is not appropriate to require people to refer because that comes close to aiding and abetting a criminal offence. It is aiding and abetting. If somebody deeply feels it is wrong, he or should not be forced into this situation.”
Senator Norris also acknowledged the reality of “a considerable number of young women who had an adverse reaction, emotionally or psychologically, after abortion,” and expressed regret that the bill contains no provision for post-abortion counselling.
Senator Mullen, who led the pro-life efforts to amend the bill, and spoke at great length during the debate, highlighted the cold brutality of the bill about which Minister Harris is so enthusiastic. “This Bill is the first piece of legislation to be brought before the Oireachtas with the specific aim of authorising the ending of life since the Public Safety Acts of the 1920s and 1930s, which authorised the imposition of the death penalty. Now, more than 90 years later, the ending of life is again before the House, only this time it is packaged as ‘healthcare’. It is a strange world where healthcare involves legislating for the deliberate ending of innocent human life.”
An amendment to ensure that a baby who survives an attempted abortion would receive medical care was also supported by Senators Joan Freeman (Ind.) and Gerry Horkan (FF).