Although I am not a member of the Oireachtas, I have been asked by the media and the general public to set out my views as one of Ireland’s MEPs on what is a very difficult and personal issue for everyone in the country.
Whether you believe in keeping Article 40.3.3, amending it or repealing it altogether – this is now a matter entirely for the Oireachtas to take a position on. I would ask that people respect all members of the Oireachtas who now have to make a very difficult decision. Respect must be the cornerstone of this debate. The name-calling, vitriol and violence of language – a constant feature of this debate since 1981, must now be consigned to history.
This issue has nothing to do with the European Union, in fact in repeated EU Treaties, it is made very clear by our EU partners that the issue of abortion is solely and exclusively a matter for the Irish people.
Therefore, what is the best way forward in my view.
Firstly, the Oireachtas Committee has produced a clear report with cogent reasoning as to why the status quo is no longer an option. I support their view that the repeal of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution is now necessary. I also support the recommendations of the Committee in the report and their recommendation on the need to legislate to allow for abortions in Ireland.
Article 40.3.3 in my view diminishes the life and health of a mother by falsely equating the mother’s life and by extension her health, with that of her unborn child. I have never understood how an equality of rights could exist.
In addition, I never believed that the 8th Amendment to the Constitution was either necessary or legally advisable. It was produced at the time as an outcome to a political contest between the two largest parties.
Written Constitutions are about principals and not the place where detailed or complex issues can be resolved. The painful truth is that for too long the Oireachtas has abdicated its responsibility to the Courts, as difficult cases have to be resolved.
Secondly, I have repeatedly made the point over many years, that this matter must not be subjected to a party whip. The idea that Political Parties can have some “party” position on this matter is ludicrous. Each member of the Oireachtas must decide the merits of the argument based on their own personal conviction. Political parties are split on this question and we need to recognise that. That was my position in 2013 when in government and my position today.
For too long we have lived with a fundamental hypocrisy. The hypocrisy of saying to Irish women that the UK can carry out their abortion procedures, and being happy for Irish women to take that journey, while denying Irish women the same right to the procedure in Ireland.
I very much hope that the Oireachtas can work through all of these complex and difficult issues, having regard to the need for change and certainty that I believe is now demanded by Irish society and especially Irish women.
I would also ask for respect for everyone in this debate. It is highly personal and we are all affected by our own experiences in life.