"Most people do not like the notion of abortionÉ 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&emdash;and they are limited&emdash;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."
Mary Harney TD, current leader of the PDs, 21 October 1992
Ten years ago, the state attempted to prevent a 14-year-old girl who had been raped and was suicidal from going to England for an abortion. A wave of public outcry and protest about the 'X Case' led to the Supreme Court allowing her to go. At the time, the Progressive Democrats condemned her treatment. They argued against a constitutional referendum that would deny abortion in Ireland to suicidal women. When such a referendum was called, it was defeated by the people.
Mary Harney called for abortion to be made available in Ireland in cases of rape, incest, danger of suicide, and risk to a woman's health. Desmond O'Malley, then PD leader, raised the possibility of an anorexic rape victim, unable to travel abroad, being denied an abortion. He also said that abortion was necessary where a woman's life could be shortened, not just threatened. "Will someone tell the Taoiseach that rolling back the Supreme Court decision is not on?" asked Michael McDowell, then PD chairman.
Now the Progressive Democrats are singing a different tune. They are supporting a referendum that would rule out the danger of suicide as grounds for an abortion in Ireland. The constitutional amendment, as drafted by Michael McDowell (now Attorney General) is explicitly aimed at rolling back the X Case decision of 1992. It would only allow abortion where a woman was at death's door. 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?
Instead of hypocritically putting women's lives in danger, we should be facing up to the reality of abortion. The referendum should be scrapped. If it goes ahead, it should be defeated. Women need more choice, not less.
Alliance for a No Vote
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