[Sinn Fein]

5 December 2001

Sinn Fein TD opposes 25th Amendment to the Constitution (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill 2001

Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin voted against the 25th Amendment to the Constitution (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill 2001.

He said:

``I am voting against the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill 2001. I am doing so because the proposed constitutional amendment and legislation is incompatible with Sinn Fein policy where it states:

``We accept the need for abortion where a woman's mental and physical well-being or life is at risk or in grave danger...''

``The government's proposal seeks to overturn the Supreme Court judgement in the X case and to rule out the risk of suicide as grounds for the legal termination of a pregnancy in this State. The law will accept ``reasonable opinion'' of medical practitioners that to prevent a real and sustainable risk of loss of a woman's life, a procedure may be carried out which results in the ending of unborn human life but not where such ``reasonable opinion'' concludes that the woman's life is at risk by means of suicide.

``It appears to us that this proposal does not, in the words of the current Article 40.3.3 have ``due regard to the equal right to life of the mother''.

Continued on following page ``Sinn Fein believes that the constitutional / legal mechanism being employed in this Bill is possibly unconstitutional. It is certainly bad legislative practice. The Oireachtas will, if the referendum is passed, be required to pass legislation which it cannot amend without a further referendum. This procedure runs the risk of futher lenghty litigation and yet another requirement to put the issues to the people by way constitutional amendment.

``Successive referenda have shown that the Constitution is not the appropriate place to deal with the complex issue of abortion.

``Those who object to this legislation have been challenged to come up with a viable alternative. But there is no obligation on anyone to support a deeply flawed proposal which could make the situation worse on the basis that they do not have detailed alternative legislative proposals themselves.

``We recognise that this is an extremely difficult issue for all concerned. There is a variety of strongly and sincerely held views in every party, including Sinn Fein. There are those who support the legislation, believing that it strikes a sustainable balance. There are those opposed on the basis that it denies to women the right to choose. There are those who oppose the Bill because they believe it does not sufficiently protect the right to life of the unborn.

``I recognise and respect those views, holding as I do strong personal opinions on this issue.'' ENDS

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