Senator Mullen challenges abortion legislation timetable and calls for amendments to reflect full range of views

“What is the reason for this rush? Is it to prevent us from having time to think?” 

Independent Senator Rónán Mullen has criticised the attempts to rush the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 through the Oireachtas and has said that the claim that TDs and Senators must legislate for abortion on the basis of the Heads of Bill already published is a “false claim”.

Senator Mullen has written to his Oireachtas colleagues to remind them that the views of a significant percentage of the electorate are not being heard, and he calls on them to table and support amendments to restrict the negative effects of the abortion legislation.

Speaking today, he said:

“Simon Harris is clearly intent on ramming this legislation through the Dáil and Seanad with the minimum of debate, to hide the real nature of abortion from the Irish people. Before the referendum, he said in the Dáil that “we will have ample time to debate any legislative proposals at a later date”.

“That is why I have written this weekend to my Oireachtas colleagues. I am challenging this new imposed rush and pointing out that we all have a right and a duty to review and amend this legislation to reflect the genuine concerns of voters.

“The Government is pushing the idea that the Heads of the Bill published in advance of the referendum represent the view of the Irish people and therefore cannot be deviated from. This is completely wrong.

“34% of the electorate voted No in the referendum, and a huge number of those who voted Yes had strong concerns about the extent of the abortion proposals put forward by the Government. The new Constitutional Amendment gives TDs and Senators the power to table and consider amendments to this Bill to reflect the genuine concerns expressed on all sides of the debate, and to vote in accordance with their own consciences.

“Members of the Oireachtas should not be browbeaten by Government claims that the referendum result ties their hands. They should not allow themselves to be bullied by party whips who want to ram this legislation through with the minimum of debate, so as to get the issue off the political agenda as quickly as possible.”

Ends

Contact Rónán Mullen on 087 2446911

*******
Note to Editor: See full text of Senator Mullen’s letter to Oireachtas members below.

Dear ,

I am writing to you with deep respect as a fellow member of Oireachtas Eireann to ask that you consider tabling and supporting amendments to limit the impact of the abortion legislation to be introduced in the Dail this coming week.

I am very concerned by the claim that there is a public expectation that the Oireachtas will legislate for abortion according to the Heads of legislation already published, and that this is supposed to be because the majority of people voted ‘Yes’ to repealing the 8th Amendment.

That is a false claim. A majority of people voted to give the Oireachtas the freedom to legislate for abortion as it sees fit. It is true that people were made aware of the Government’s proposed model of legislation. But TDs and Senators have full freedom. We still have the right and duty to vote for or against abortion legislation according to our individual consciences.
I would ask you to consider the following:

1. Should we not try to represent the concerns of the 34% of people who voted No? These voters want legislators to vote against this legislation or at least to try to make the legislation more restrictive. They deserve to be represented.

2. Don’t you think we should also be representing the concerns of ‘Yes’ voters who don’t want the legislation to go as far as the Government plans? Who is going to table the amendments that these people support?

3. Isn’t it wrong that political parties are trying to whip dissenters into line by only allowing amendments to be proposed through party spokespeople? This silences the concerns of what constitutes, in the case of one party, a majority of its Oireachtas representation and a majority of its voter base.

4. Why is this legislation being brought into the Dail in haste and without the best practice of pre-legislative scrutiny?

5. Is it right that tens of millions of euro of taxpayers money will be used to make freely available a procedure that is in the vast majority of cases an elective medical procedure as opposed to a medical necessity? There is no precedent for this. Hundreds of thousands of Irish people believe that this is an unethical and harmful medical procedure. Many medical personnel share this view. So why should taxpayers money be used to so freely fund it?

6. Isn’t it wrong to force medical personnel with an ethical objection to abortion to refer onwards to a colleague who has no such objection? Many medical professionals may feel they have to disobey this, which will only bring the law and their professions into disrepute.

7. Should we not be legislating for more respectful, non-coercive efforts to encourage women seeking abortion to continue their pregnancy in the knowledge that there will be supports available from the State? The Government seems to want to promote abortion as a social good and a positive option for women.

What is the reason for the rush? Is it to prevent us from having time to think?

I would be very grateful if you would consider what I have written here and bring it to your party or relevant group for discussion.

With best wishes,

Rónán

Senator Rónán Mullen
Seanad Éireann
Leinster House
Dublin 2