Attempt to charge for abortions rejected

Former Sinn Féin TD Carol Nolan

Proposals to force women to pay for abortion services, except where her life is at risk, have been dismissed by the Oireachtas Health Committee.

The committee sat for almost nine hours yesterday to scrutinise 180 amendments which have been put forward on a bill to will allow for the roll-out of abortion services in this country.

Former Sinn Féin TD Carol Nolan put forward an amendment to the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 which stated that no public money would be provided for terminations other than cases where there is a risk to the life of the mother.

Responding to the amendment, Health Minister Simon Harris asked if it would right to send women who have been raped or have suffered a fatal foetal abnormality a medical bill.

“Here’s some breaking news: women are taxpayers too,” he told the committee.

This is about free, safe, and legal, if it is not free, it will still be legal but it will not be safe.

He added that he could not discriminate against some women because of the choice they were making.

He added: “I thought Ireland had moved to a better place in that regard.”

A number of TDs, including Independent Peter Fitzpatrick and Fianna Fáil’s Margaret Murphy O’Mahony, cited the stretched healthcare system as reasons to charge women.

Ms Nolan said the €12m promised to provide the service was “unacceptable”.

However, Mr Harris said the funding for termination services will be far from “generous and flaithulach”, as the amount allocated is just 0.0007% of the total Health budget.

Ms Nolan said Mr Harris had bowed to pro-choice campaigners’ pressure.

She said: “You once were pro-life, then when you realised when it wasn’t popular or indeed wouldn’t guarantee you your ministry, then you decided to turn, ‘I’m not that sort of a person, OK?’

There is no need to behave like a frightened schoolboy.

Sinn Fein’s Louise O’Reilly asked that Ms Nolan, her former party colleague, “consider the pregnant rape victim in direct provision”.

“I think this amendment is very regrettable” she said, asking that it be withdrawn.

Solidarity-PBP TD Brid Smith asked why the amendment had not been ruled out of order when two separate amendments to allow women living in the North to access services here had been struck out.

A number of TDs said any mention of criminal sanctions should be taken out of the bill.

Mr Harris said he would bring forward suggestions at report stage to move the offences section from the front of the bill to further back. He said that, unlike most bills, this legislation that is read quite regularly.

However, Mr Harris said removing criminal sanctions would mean that there would be no repercussions for sourcing illegal abortion pills over the internet, for example, and stressed that in no other instance would it be legal to source unlicensed medication.

Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell called to remove the term “end the life of the foetus” and suggested it should be replaced by “end a pregnancy”, as this would make the bill more women-centric.

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