PDs accused of hypocrisy over abortion referendum

Protest at PD offices, 25 South Frederick St. Friday 18 January, 13.00 ÷ 14.00

The pro-choice group Alliance for a No Vote is protesting on Friday at the head office of the Progressive Democrats in central Dublin, accusing the party of hypocrisy in their handling of the abortion referendum.

The ANV will hand out leaflets containing a quotation from PD leader Mary Harney in 1992, when she called for abortion to made available in Ireland in cases of rape, incest, danger of suicide and risk to a woman's health. They will also point to statements made in the same period by Desmond O'Malley, then PD leader, and Michael McDowell, then party chairman, in which they opposed a referendum to roll back the X Case judgement of 1992, a referendum that would rule out suicide as grounds for abortion.

"Now the Progressive Democrats are singing a different tune," said ANV spokesperson Catherine Naji. "They are supporting a referendum that would rule out the danger to life by suicide as grounds for an abortion in Ireland. The Government's constitutional amendment is explicitly aimed at rolling back the X Case judgement. Mary Harney, Desmond O'Malley and the rest of the PD leadership have gone along with this. Is the PDs' survival in government more important to them than their liberal principles, or concern for the welfare of Irish women?"


Quotations from PD leaders

"Most people do not like the notion of abortion

In my view, it is the lesser of two evils where a woman's life is at risk, where her health is seriously at risk, or if somebody has been raped or the subject of a sexual crime such as incest. It is also the lesser of two evils where somebody may take her own life. In these limited circumstances¸and they are limited¸the option of terminating a pregnancy should be available to Irish women in Ireland. In this debate, as in many others, we will continue to export our problem to Britain. Once again, Britain will provide a solution to an Irish problem. However, if this country was geographically located 2,500 miles into the mid-Atlantic, if we were much further from Britain than we are and it cost a few hundred pounds to get there, we might take a different approach to the issue we are discussing today."

¸Mary Harney TD, current leader of the PDs, speaking in the Dáil, 21 October 1992 (Dáil Debates, column 184)

"It is my strongly held view, and that of the Progressive Democrats, that inserting a new provision in the Constitution of Ireland is not the proper mechanism

"How are doctors to decide on the hard cases, the border line cases and the emergency cases? Will they have to endure a threat of having their judgment challenged after the fact in some criminal suit? Will the woman's life be put at risk because they are unsure of their position? How are doctors to define the elusive dividing line between life-threatening and life-shortening situations? "

there is little point in asserting that such and such a medical procedure will not be affected by the proposed constitutional amendment. I repeat that the reality is that when the constitutional provision is subject to interpretation by the Supreme Court, the judges can only adjudicate on the basis of the words in the Constitution and not by any other words or documents, no matter how well-intentioned such clarifications may now seek to be.

"We must be willing to consider the fact that some very unusual suicide case may arise where the woman cannot for some reason or another leave the jurisdiction and where a real and unavoidable risk of self-destruction exists. For example, a young pregnant girl may become severely anorexic after a multiple rape. Such a girl along with her unborn could be condemned by this Amendment, with the hands of the Supreme Court tied, thus preventing any sensible intervention to save her life. I would seriously question the basis for putting such an absolute ban in our Constitution. I believe that is undesirable.

"The distinction between life-threatening and life-shortening is clearly problematical. Are we as a people to say to these women: because this pregnancy will not kill you now but will only leave you immobilised, maybe a physical or mental wreck, and perhaps with a dramatically reduced life expectancy, you may not have a particular treatment?"

¸Desmond O'Malley TD, then leader of the PDs, speaking in the Dáil, 21 October 1992 (Dáil Debates, columns 67, 179-182)

"Rolling back the Supreme Court decision is a euphemism for tilting the scales of justice so as to force Irish women (including rape victims) to carry a real and substantial risk. Will someone tell the Taoiseach that rolling back the Supreme Court decision is not on? Irish women will not accept it. Irish men and women who share any degree of imagination and compassion will not wear it. Nobody wants an Irish court handing down injunctions to 14-year-old rape victims except a few zealots and their allies with withered emotions."

¸Michael McDowell, then PD chairman, now Attorney General
(quoted in Irish Independent, 21 June 1992)

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