Belfast Telegraph

Abortion Bill amendment bid fails

An attempt by a senior Government figure to water down proposed new laws on abortion in limited circumstances has been dismissed.

With the Dublin parliament to vote on the contentious issue on Wednesday night, the coalition is bracing itself for a revolt and the loss of Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton.

Up to 10 Government members are thought to be facing expulsion, with four already shown the door, but the passing of the law is not in doubt.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has stuck to a hard line on the divisive reform, demanding full support from his politicians and insisting that the legislation is about "all the women of Ireland".

Ms Creighton tabled a number of last-minute amendments. She pushed for a rule to allow for the unborn to have legal representation and for speedy and intense assessment and evaluation of women who state they are suicidal.

The leader of Fine Gael's coalition partner Labour, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, said there will be no fundamental or significant last-minute changes to the legislation. He said: "I think it's regrettable if any member of government parties vote against the legislation."

Dr Anthony McCarthy, consultant psychiatrist at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, said Ms Creighton's scheme would not work with current staff levels and arrangements in Irish hospitals.

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 was drawn up following the death of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian dentist who died in an Irish hospital in October last year after being denied an abortion as she miscarried. An inquiry found medics missed an early opportunity to terminate on health grounds and unacceptable clinical practice.

The legislation will enshrine a woman's right to a termination if her life is at risk with the most contentious part of the new laws allowing an expectant mother to seek an abortion on the grounds that she is suicidal.

Mass protests by pro-life groups, hate mail and death threats to politicians and intimidation of campaigners have shrouded the weeks and months leading up to the vote. A group of pro-life activists slept at the front of Leinster House overnight where the vote will take place as late as 10pm on Wednesday.

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