The fragile balancing act of the “Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill”

Right now the Dail is sitting on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill. To say it has been controversial is an understatement. On Tuesday in a powerful essay (it sounded more like an address to the nation [MP3]), Olivia O’Leary called it “a distorted law” under which men and women would be far from equal.

To accomodate the X case (Wikipedia), there is to be no time limit on when an abortion can take place. As Brian noted earlier:

[The Taoiseach]’s surely deceiving himself if he believes that in late pregnancy where the woman is deemed to be suicidal both lives can always be protected. The basic flaw in the whole reform is that it gives too much power and too much responsibility to doctors and none at all it seems to be individual women.

In truth, no woman is going to sit in front of a panel trying to work out if she is going to commit suicide or not. So the long, long flows of women going from Dublin (and Belfast) to England for an abortion on demand will continue unabated.

And, as Brian has again noted, change in abortion laws are likely to take place in a certain jagged continuum:

The conservative side may be more aware than the progressive that social change will not stop here, however rocky and winding the road. That explains their stridency. But the Catholic church’s implacable opposition to even the minor adjustments to the abortion rules in the Republic has provoked a sharp reply from the tanaiste, that the democracy is paramount. Labour may be under pressure but he will win widespread support on this point.

That may put into broader longer term context Micheal Martin’s failed struggle to whip his small parliamentary party through the Ta lobby. And Gerry’s unusually stern warning to any defaulters (he’s looking at you Peadar). In the Taoiseach’s own party’s pre debate meeting, Peter Matthews could not get anyone else to sign his anti bill motion.

This is unlikely to be the last time this issue is to revisited. In the meantime, if there is one modest line of progress, it may be that no members of medical staff can be under the illusion that Ireland does not perform abortions legally and lawfully in order to save the life of the mother.

For now, the Dail session is a masterclass, of pirouetting around the need, as Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin put it, “to provide long overdue legislative certainty”…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty